Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Spitfire Grill
Mother Road Theatre Company
Review by Sheridan Johnson

Also see Rob's review of Evita


Alaina Warren Zachary
Photo by Kaleidosoul
The Spitfire Grill is a touching musical being brought to life this month by director Julia Thudium of Mother Road at the Keshet Center for the Arts. Magical and meaningful, the play is a diamond in the rough.

The story of The Spitfire Grill first appeared as a 1996 Sundance Audience Award winning film. In 2001, Playwrights Horizons of New York presented the stage musical version by James Valcq (music and book) and Fred Alley (lyrics and book) Off-Broadway.

The story centers around Percy, played with unceremonious grit by the beautiful Amy Bourque. She is a young woman recently released from prison into anonymous, small-town America. As Percy navigates the town, the audience gets to meet a smattering of characters—a gossip, a veteran, a wife and a cop to name a few—as they struggle through their own lives and let the details in piece by piece.

One of the most refreshing parts of the The Spitfire Grill is that it is so familiar. Since the recent election, we've been so focused on the things that divide our country. Spitfire is a snapshot of an America that doesn't care who you voted for. It's an America that remembers where it comes from but hasn't decided where it wants to go yet. It's an American Dream play that doesn't feature waving flags or floats—just friends you haven't met yet with stories they haven't finished yet.

The music (musical direction excellently done by Lina Ramos) is twangy and heartfelt, solidly grounding the play in Americana culture. The live band is phenomenal, and creates an enveloping sound that swings between warmth and excitement with ease.

In many ways, the musical itself is like a singing love-child of Mystic Pizza and Our Town. As such, The Spitfire Grill relies heavily on the comedic timing and earnest lovability of its actors. Alaina Warren Zachary shines as the hilariously gruff owner of the grill. Kelsey Ann O'Keefe provides the innocence and beauty that we love to believe in. O'Keefe's sincere and angelic tones are perfect. Joined with Amy Bourque, the three harmonize their voices and their characters joyously. Combine that with Jen Stephenson's truthful and hilarious portrayal of the persistently uninvited Effy, and you have a winning combination of on-stage talent.

The world of the play is completed by lighting designer Timothy Wilkens and set designer Vic Browder whose backlit, half-built farm silhouettes remind us all of the work that is to be done, and the strong foundation that stands in all of us despite the pasts we may bring to the table or the challenges in our paths.

Mother Road Theatre Company's The Spitfire Grill runs through April 23, 2017, with performances every Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets available at www.motherroad.org.


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