Stella is your average Belfast Catholic working class woman. She worries about her son, Thomas, takes care of her two cats, and listens to dead people for a living. While that makes her the more interesting of the two characters performing interlocking monologues in a bare bones setting at Church Street Theatre, this one act character study may not be enough to attract an audience to Stella Morgan.
Stella actually believes that she can hear dead people and works as a medium. She received this gift from her father, a Gypsy. She refuses to compromise her integrity by telling people what they want to hear. Her job is not to comfort or give false hope, but to persuade people that the spirit world is genuine and to encourage her customers that the future is in their hands.
Life is not easy for “Stella the fortune tella.” Most people are skeptics who give her a hard time. Yet she finds comfort in the darkness, which is surprising given her history of childhood abuse. Belfast playwright Rosemary Jenkinson (whose Johnny Meister and The Stitch played recently at Solas Nua) leaves it to the audience to decide whether Stella’s gift is genuine or the product of a troubled life.
Stella never realized that life was even harder for her son Thomas, who used to be kidded about his mother “the witch” when he was in school. Now Thomas is a tough young man who has gotten involved in drugs, both using and dealing. No one kids him to his face anymore.
Kerry Waters Lucas gives a sharply focused performance as Stella. She is a talented storyteller who gives Stella just enough eccentricity to make her interesting, but human enough to have real emotions about her clients and neighborhood skeptics. Chris Aldrich is well cast as Thomas, although not quite as convincing as Lucas.
Ultimately an event happens that means Stella must decide where to focus her future. She makes a natural choice that is true to her character, although not as dramatic as it could be.
Stella Morgan is an engaging work that slowly paints in the details of the two characters’ lives. While Rosemary Jenkinson’s writing has a credible mix of realistic detail and appealing emotion, at times it can also feel as languid as the summer weather outside.
By Rosemary Jenkinson
Directed by Eric Lucas
Presented by Keegan Theatre’s New Island Project
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Stella Morgan plays an intermittent schedule (it’s sharing the stage with Keegan’s Noises Off) thru Aug 18, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.
Nelson Pressley . Washington Post