Cal State Fullerton’s fall theater production of “Bee-luther-hatchee” sets a mighty example of what can be done with a relatively small cast of seven characters that is immensely dependent on their relationships with one another.
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Directed by Saundra McClain, “Bee-luther-hatchee” is neither a superfluous or grandeur story. It eloquently explores the question of authorship, particularly who has the right to tell someone’s story.
Set in New York City during the 1990s, a far simpler time of pagers and colorful windbreakers, Shelita Burns (Noah Michal), an African-American editor accepts an award for “Bee-luther-hatchee,” an autobiography written by a mysterious 72-year-old African-American woman from the South, Libby Price (Adrianna Callendar).
The two women have never met. Up until this point it never concerned Shelita but she chooses to embark on a journey to discover where (and who) Libby Price is.
The play is done on a round stage so the characters have limited scenery to work with, yet the actors manage to keep up their lively performance through the use of props and lively back-and-forth chatter.
While the beginning of the play had a few technical errors with the revolving stage that were too obvious to ignore, the extra effort made by the cast kept the initial stumbles in the beginning from putting a damper on the rest of the show.
Effective lighting changes also allowed for smooth transitions between scenes to keep from any confusion, particularly in the flashbacks from the South in the 1950s and when Shelita’s judgements and thoughts begin to overwhelm her.
The story does not have an overwhelmingly exciting plot or a great deal of suspense that would be expected of a mystery but what truly makes McClain’s version of “Bee-luther-hatchee” a delight is its dynamic characters, with Shelita and Libby being among the most notable.
Michal manages a perfect blend of endearment and levelheadedness. She expertly brings a youthful perspective, and with a love for Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. Du Bois, portrays her character as an old soul that hopes to provide a voice to those who have been silenced in history.
Callendar captures Libby Price’s essence through her melodic voice and elegant movement. Though her whereabouts remain much of a mystery in the first act, her fleeting presence during scenes reminds everyone of her importance in the story.
Much of the first act is effervescent and nostalgic, with ‘90s music and the comical best friend Anna (Kira Jamison) providing laughter for the play’s less exciting moments.
During the second act, the story spins in a series of shocking revelations that complicate Shelita’s future, bringing the importance of authorship front and center to the plot line.
The relationship between Shelita and Sean (Bernard Hefner) is truly a highlight to the play, as both Michal and Hefner have great chemistry and deep understanding of their characters’ thoughts and emotions.
While the play may begin a little slow and with a few errors, the end of the play leaves the audience with a sense of amazement.
The quirky, more comical ‘90s aspects in the first act complement the more dramatic and serious second act, which was a well-rounded approach that made it entertaining to watch.
Overall, as the first production of the season “Bee-luther-hatchee” sets a great start to the CSUF theatre season.
The show runs about two hours with a 15-minute intersession from Oct. 5 through Oct. 28 in the Hallberg Theatre, with tickets at $14 and $12 for students.