'Pinocchio's Sister' asks many questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

By Linda Kesler and Aaron Butler
For the Salisbury Post
“We all struggle to find meaning and purpose in our lives and all of us wrestle with basic life questions” declares part of the mission statement of Center for Faith & the Arts, Inc. Certainly St. Thomas Players, the organization’s drama troupe, tackles this head on with their world premiere production of Jenny Hubbard’s “Pinocchio’s Sister,” currently running at the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre on the campus of Catawba College.
Dodd, a reclusive small-town librarian, is confronted with the challenge of raising her 12-year-old godson Guy — his name rhymes with “key” — following his mother’s death. Dodd worries that Guy has psychological difficulties beyond those attributable to losing his mother, and we soon learn that she, too, is fragile.
In the course of learning how best to help each other, a process aided by Dodd’s older friend, Eva, as well as the ghost of Guy’s mother, Ruthie, godmother and godson discover that they have many commonalities that lead to confrontation, but also greater understanding.
Voiceover narratives retelling portions of the original grim tale of Pinocchio (as opposed to the more well-known Disney version) interweave the scenes of this contemporary family, drawing parallels and creating juxtapositions.
Fairytale godmothers may be wise and able to solve all problems, but Dodd lacks confidence and is reluctant to express her feelings and the stories behind those feelings. Through his incessant questions, however, Guy pries open the family stories and, through his own story writing, demonstrates that he divines more about Dodd than she may understand about herself. But whether these stories will help the characters to heal or will lead to further death and grief remains a question throughout the play.
Actors Tammi Shumate (Dodd), Boothe Pfaff (Guy), Linda Britt (Eva), and Anne Cote Hoffman (Ruthie) worked together using gentle humor to tell a difficult story of the pain that families often bury rather than address. All of the scenes take place in an eat-in kitchen, and Dave Pulliam, Chris Speer, Jeffrey Salerno, Jacquelyn Loy and crew provided believable and effective set, sound, lights and costumes.
Creating a new script is a challenging task and has been compared by some to preparing for and birthing a child. During her announcement to the audience, Director Claudia Galup acknowledged the two-year process and partnership between Jennifer Hubbard and St. Thomas Players, thanking Elizabeth “Betsy” Rich and Martha West for their sponsorship and support.
St. Thomas Players has once again created an opportunity for audience members to engage in thought-filled, engaging theater, raising questions that have no easy answers.
The production runs June 17-18 and 22-25, with talk-back sessions with playwright Jenny Hubbard on June 22 and 23. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students) and can be purchased at the Literary BookPost in Salisbury, at http://stthomasplayers.org, or at the door.