I had the opportunity to see “This Stretch of Montpelier” by Kelley Nicole Girod on Tuesday July 24th at the Flamboyan Theater as part of the Planet Connections Theater Festivity. This slice of life piece told the story of three pairs of characters, all taking place along a quiet stretch of Louisiana backroad on a hot summer day. The themes of racism, progression, and identity are strongly shown throughout the piece which was staged and executed masterfully.
The show starts off with a visit of Felonius (Donovan Christie Jr.) to Miss Janice (Geany Masai) on a hot day in Montpelier Louisiana. Janice was an absolute firecracker performance. What started off slow was absolutely electrifying by the time the first scene ended. I cannot commend the performances of Christie and Masai enough. Felonius’ manic energy underscoring the deep conflict inside him exposed the feelings I see in myself from time to time: a false cheer covering for deep flaws. Janice was quick to provide a good old fashioned dressing down to the Doctor of Words, which pushes him to grow as a person.
The second pair was an interesting dichotomy: a childless widow, and a soon-to-be widow. Ruby (Carole Monferdini) was distracted, and ranting about how things had changed, ignoring her friend in a deep depression. She pined for the days when white supremacy was the norm, and it was a jarring experience for those of us living in a significantly more progressive space. It underscored handily how no matter how far we come, there’s always going to be people who do not feel the way we do. My only real criticism of this scene was the inclusion of [old woman] saying a racial slur. While I understood its purpose, I felt it was distracting almost. Shock for shock’s sake.
The scene between Frances (Alisha Spielmann) and Bonnie (Lamar K. Cheston), had little impact on the plot, and left me questioning its place in the piece. They felt like an outside interaction compared to the rest of the show.
The themes here were deeper and more subtle than most I’d come across. Serenity and surety vs chaos, judgment vs pragmatism, professional envy. There were quite a few currents to keep track of, and I felt they were extremely realistic.
The final portions of the show had all of the characters interacting. The dialogue was well performed and interesting but it didn’t leave much of an impression. I’m not sure if the conversation between Felonius and Ruby was genuine or not, but the interaction wasn’t enough to change the characters opinion’s she ranted about for an entire scene in my eyes. It left me questioning a lot of the interactions I’d seen behind closed doors, and I suspect that might have been the point: outward civility hiding an undercurrent of prejudice.
I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys slice-of-life shows, or shows which can leave you conflicted.