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‘Blackberry Winter’ at Actor’s Express

2015 November 10
Carolyn Cook

Carolyn Cook: Photo by Christopher Bartelski

“Blackberry Winter” is practically a one-woman show about a middle-aged woman who is dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. Vivienne Avery (Carolyn Cook) flits about her home talking to the audience about her mother who must move out of an assisted living home into a nursing home. Dressed in a prim knee-length skirt and a 1980s-style silky blouse with a bow on it, Vivienne drones on and on in her thick Southern accent with a prim affectation. Miss Priss is quite prone to cussing and has a rule about putting money in a piggy bank each time she says a cuss word. She says she has been putting money in the bank for a while, but when she puts the money in, it drops right to the bottom sounding as if there has had next to nothing put in there save for this one night. Either she, too, is getting Alzheimer’s or the director (Ariel Fristoe) forgot to add money to the bank so it doesn’t sound as if this is the first time she has put money into it.

Vivienne speaks for what feels like at least 20 minutes each about scarves that her mother has bought her and about the way to make a coconut cake. There’s an analogy and a cartoon on video screens about creatures in the forest that build memories their whole lives and store them in a box, but when they are older and a White Egret (Maia Knispel) goes to the box to recapture, they are no longer there because the Gray Mole (Joe Sykes) stole them. That whole scenario feels like it takes another 20 minutes.

This play, which probably lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, feels s-l-o-w. Sykes, whose hands are bound in heavy rope and is blindfolded, embodies the mole and is entertaining as he claws and gnaws his way into the box of memories.

This is the world premiere of “Blackberry Winter,” and it is scheduled to run in eight other theaters around the country. Written by Steve Yockey, “Blackberry Winter” runs through Nov. 22 at Actor’s Express.

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