Outside on Summerville's S. Main Street adjacent to the Town Square, the newly installed marquee of the James F. Dean Theatre brightly lit the front entrance. Inside the rejuvenated community theater, the prop lighting radiantly illuminated the beautifully prepared set--an assemblage of weathered timber fashioned into a rustic, old fishing pier overshadowed by moss-laden trees and unforgotten recollections. But the most brilliant luminary of the celebratory evening was the magical, celestial light fondly remembered as the "Catfish Moon."
The fishy sounding full moon and weatherworn pier are literally and figuratively significant pieces in the puzzling lives of the three long-time friends featured in Laddy Sartin's touching and lighthearted play reflecting the true meaning of the words, "Let's go fishing." A resident of Rock Hill and Mississippi educated, Sartin understood small town, southern ways and catfish angling with alligators.
A favorite hangout when they were kids, where after skipping school the threesome would skinny dip, woo girls, and go on overnight fishing trips, the old pier in many ways had become the mirror image of their relationships--weather beaten, neglected and in serious need of loving care.
Successful in business but left lamenting, "There is more to life than the almighty dollar," Curley(Barry Gordon) was the big brother of the group. Sensing time was running short on their fractured friendships, he sets out on a plan to put in motion the healing process by recapturing their youthful glory days. He invites Gordon(Ernie Eliason) to meet him on the old pier where they share drinks and reminisce--no beer for Gordon who was an alcoholic.
Curley takes the opportunity to address the on going feud between fun-loving Gordon and short-tempered Frog(Chad Reuer) worsened by the fact Gordon, described by Frog as "a person who doesn't know the meaning of moderation," had developed a love interest in Frog's ex-wife Betty(Shannon Johnson); also Curley's sister. With this rendezvous, a sequel of events are thus put in motion that takes you on a trip down memory lane, stirs your passions, tickles your funny bone, and breaks your heart.
The superbly crafted props and artfully appointed scenery were mesmerizing. I had to restrain the urge to jump on stage and join Curley and Gordon on the pier, crank the top off a couple of beers, and shed a few clothes. "I spent a long evening meticulously hot gluing the grassy weeds to the stage floor," Chrissy Eliason recounted--the set designer, director and driving force behind the perfectly casted actors.
So convincing were the cast's performances, you forgot you were sitting in a theater and not observing real life unfold before you. As the goofus of the trio who couldn't control his fishing rod any better than he could his drinking habits, Ernie Eliason delivered a top notch performance demonstrating both versatility and temperament; transforming himself into a love-smitten fool one minute and a drunken fool the next.
Barry Gordon, southern boy born and raised on Savage Street in Charleston, skillfully charmed his way through his role like the dying with dignity, southern gentleman he is while tough guy Chad Reuer provided the fireworks and validated the quote, "Your acting like a big baby." See the play and you will know what I mean. And equally notable, Shannon Johnson sweetened the cast with her irrepressible smile.
So, if you appreciate the value of friendship, love to laugh, and believe in second chances, "Catfish Moon" will brighten your smile, warm your soul, and illuminate your heart. It is a must-see.
Things just keep getting better and better at the James F. Dean Theatre. You can purchase tickets at Flowertown Players.
Monica Shows-Assistant Director; Jane Batten--Stage Manager; Scenic Artist--Robert Maniscalco; JC Conway--Lighting and Sound Design; Makala Becker--Light Board Operator; Jeff Wolf--Sound Operator
8 PM shows: March 28 and 29; April 3, 4, and 5; April 10, 11, and 12
3 PM shows: March 30; April 6; April 13