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Important Messages Definitely Not From A Bottle

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

It’s as old as the hills.  It dates to the first human beings and their desire to imbibe in a liquid with a little more kick to it than their local water supply. Yes, we’re talking alcohol, we’re talking beer, and, yes, even mother Earth’s own natural mood changer – wine.  All perfectly okay in moderation for some, however, there are people, who for a variety of reasons (DNA included) cannot tolerate any of the demon liquids.  For millennia these people suffered the unknown social stigma of what we have come to know as Alcoholism.

“LUSH”, the award winning play written and directed by VJ Hume (a popular local radio/music/stage personality) addresses the condition of Alcoholism from a different perspective – that of the female alcoholic.  For years women were not thought of as having a drinking problem.  It was just unheard of to discuss women in that manner.  As a result, the serious health and social problems of women were swept under the rug, so to speak.

All that has now changed, and for the better, as Hume takes this very important message to the next level, writing a very interesting play presented here as a staged reading to address and inform the audience without slipping into a boring, didactic expose on the evils of alcoholism.

Thanks to an excellent creative ensemble cast the play comes across as both entertaining and informative.  Hume who also directs, let’s the creative muses of her talented cast breathe life into the true story of Marty Mann, a Chicago heiress; a woman born to wealth and privilege who ended up living homeless and desperate on a park bench.  Who was Marty Mann?  And how did she become “The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous”?

When I asked playwright Hume why she wrote the play, she replies smiling broadly, “Why to get Marty Mann’s face on a postage stamp, of course.  But seriously, she really deserves it.  Marty Mann, she continues, “literally climbed out from the depths of despair to become the public spokesperson for female alcohol addiction writing the chapter ‘Women Suffer Too’, which is now a part of AA’s mission statement”.

Playwright/director VJ Hume is well known as a prolific writer, musician, and entertainer.  When I asked her how long it took to pen the play, she exhaled almost apologetically, saying three years off and on.  “The play you just saw is the sixth incarnation.  This version was first performed in 2011 at the Indio Performing Arts Center.”  Three years is not very long when one has a schedule like hers.

The story revolves around Marty Mann, affectingly played by Denise Strand, a young woman caught up in the lifestyle and thrills of the “roaring 20’s” where booze was the mother’s milk of the young and privileged.   Strand really makes one feel the pain of Marty as she tries to come to grips with her addiction to alcohol.  She is superbly supported by Dean Apple and Ron Young who portray AA’s famous co-founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob respectively, as well as by VJ Hume portraying Mrs. Wilson (Bill’s wife), and other characters.  One of the nice touches in this audience-friendly production, is that all the actors get to work with various props, wigs, hats, and other actor’s tools of the trade, in full view of the audience.   This lends shading and polish to their characterizations and performances.

Musician Ted Pethes’ clarinet solos, and his musical selections perfectly match and compliment the era and the tone of the production, which nicely sets up the transitions for the actors and their scenes.

It’s a pity that “LUSH”, this wonderfully entertaining piece, which is a must see for all, was only presented once at the Rancho Mirage “Tolerance Education Center” on April 28, 2012.  However, the company is planning on touring this production, so when you see the title “LUSH” being presented in a live theatre near you, make sure you catch a performance.

For additional information about future performance and locations, contact vjhume1@gmail.com.

 

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