Athena Project winner 'Tell Martha Not to Moan' back on stage

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The audience at the Aurora Fox is almost in Martha and Leroy Patterson’s run-down front room as the elderly black couple talk about the day. Should they attend the 40th anniversary of the Detroit Riot? (Their son Daniel lost his life in it.)

Martha hums happily as she tries on a new hat and a grumpy Leroy says he’s not up to going.

His humorous yet sarcastic worldview contrasts to her upbeat devout approach as they converse. She hopes to make it to 100, while he’s is slowing down. Initial symptoms of dementia appear as he sees his dead son. Sad to watch.

“Tell Martha Not to Moan” director Melissa McCarl has worked out blocking issues and general interaction well on a limited stage space. Pacing is a bit slow, although these folks are admittedly elderly.

“Tell Martha Not to Moan,” by Clinnesha D. Sibley, was the winner in the Athena Project’s contest for women playwrights earlier in 2013, and was so popular when first presented that it is brought back through July 21. Sibley, an award-winning assistant professor of drama at the University of Arkansas, has written several published plays.

Her picture of a longstanding, loving relationship is beautifully written, with Martha performed by Adrienne Martin-Fullwood and Leroy by Russell Costen — both experienced actors, who carry on a point-counterpoint conversation about memories.

Other cast members: Kathi Wood, who plays Cassie, the girlfriend of their late son and the couple’s caregiver; Don Randle as policeman Tommy, who is in love with Cassie (but they don’t want the Pattersons to know); and Martell Harding, who plays the dead son and a detective.

As Leroy becomes distressed by teens making noise on the street, they talk about how the neighborhood has changed and not many others are left. Leroy doesn’t want to change anything, including the curtains that he and Danny put up. He gets out a gun and discharges it — Cassie and Tommy are on the scene and a detective arrives to suggest that Leroy be sent to an institution.

The production runs is reaching the end of its run and offers a different take on today’s world.

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