The PopCulteer
June 24, 2011

Special Note: Your PopCulteer has overdone it a bit this week. Editing and posting four episodes of Radio Free Charleston devoted to FestivALL, plus attending events these past two evenings, has left yours truly truly spent. So please forgive the meagerness of this week’s regular Friday dose of coolness. While we will have a small photo essay devoted to ArtWalk today, rest assured that a longer version will run in this space next week.

“Easier” The Hard Way

We took in opening night of Dan Kehde’s new drama last night, and it was an incredible night of theater. “Easier Than The Truth” is not the typical light theatrical fare that we usually find during FestivALL. This intense drama about a dysfunctional family dealing with the death of their younger son is a gritty, realistic, even harsh, drama, delivered by yet another in what is becoming a line of Contemporary Youth Arts Company dream casts.

Almost immmdiately we see how dysfunctional this family is. A seminary student, played by Nik Tidquist, is summoned home when his younger brother “Jamie,” a “golden boy” inexplicably hangs himself on the verge of heading off to a promising baseball career.

The seminary student, “Eddie Stoneman,” returns home, and we find out how strained his relationship with his family is. His father, Bill (portrayed by Donnie Simith) is a seeething ball of resentment. His mother, Dora (Maddie Gourevitch) is deep in denial. His 13 year-old sister, Janie (Mandy Harper), is in the final stages of cancer.

Very quickly the “truth” starts to unfold. Everyone bears some resentment against Eddie for leaving his family to pursue his “calling.” His sister hasn’t been told that her cancer has spread beyond any hope of recovery. Most shocking, his brother did not actually commit suicide. He died while practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation. His parents covered up the real cause of death because it was too hard for them to deal with the reality.

Kehde does not take the easy way out with “Easier Than The Truth.” The audience is taking through a gut-wrenching, boldly-uncomfortable experience. There are no pat answers or stock happy endings. “Easier Than The Truth” is a realistic character study of a family with serious emotional baggage. He’s written a cliche-free examination of clashing personalities in a very realistic setting.

There is nothing fantastic or outrageous in the plot. It’s all completely plausible. From the family’s misplaced anger to the reactions of Jamie’s girlfriend Kassie (Kim Waybright) and friends Lonnie (Austin Susman) and Nell (Samantha Oxley).

This is a heavy play. There are well-placed moments of comic relief, as there would be in real life, but they are quickly snapped back to reality. The underlying themes of inter-family rivalries comes to a boil as we learn more about the history of this beleaguered family.

Kehde’s cast is a real “Murderer’s Row” of area acting talent. Nik Tidquist reaches new hieghts as Eddie, who is the center of the show. Donnie Smith and Maddie Gourevitch breathe life into the parents who have many complex issues going on. Mandy Harper also brings her character to life in an amazing manner. These are characters who, thanks to the writing and acting, come across as very real.

The three supporting characters, played by Kim Waybright, Austin Susman and Samantha Oxley, likewise, are very believable as they navigate the guilt and confusion of dealing with the unexpected death of someone so young.

“Easier Than The Truth” is probably the most provocative, serious drama that’s ever been associated with FestivALL. This is hard-gittig drama that deals with serious adult topics. It’s also, quite possibly, the most striking theatrical production that Charleston will see this year.

Jun 24, 25, …30
Jul 1 & 2
WVSU Capitol Center Theater

$10 adults
$6 students

There was art all over the place, even on the street.

A Truncated look at ArtWalk

The rigors of producing 84 minutes of Radio Free Charleston in four days has rendered your PopCulteer a tad sleep-deprived. In an act of self-preservation, we are limiting this month’s ArtWalk photo essay to just a tad more than fifteen pictures.

Despite the torrentail downpour early on, ArtWalk was a rousing success, with tons of folks hitting the bricks to take in the copious offerings of Downtown Charleston’s art galleries.

However, we’re going to go whole-hog next week, as we revisit last night’s ArtWalk and supplement it with even more FestivALL art event pictures.

This week we’re going to look at the people of ArtWalk.


Richard Bruce brought an incredible selection of work to The Purple Moon

One of Richard's pieces

The lovely Sharon Lyn Stackpole was on hand

Bill Kimmons and friends jam outside The Art Emporium

Jeff, Shannon and Sylvie Bleu Pierson made it out last night

Tofujitsu at The Purple Moon, number 154 in a series!

Veggie Dogs were drawing crowds at Mission Savvy

Musical Easels at The Lee Street Triangle drew a flash-mob-sized crowd

Chase Henderson was one of the rotating artists

Stephen, Amee, Audrey and Mia Beckner, the Fantastic Four of Charleston's music, photography and art scene

The crowd at The Art Emporium's FestivALL Invitational

Michael Lipton at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame exhibit at Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery

At Visions Day Spa we ran into Emily Dunn, Alex Bannerman and Lisa Gandee rehearsin the Salon Play

Lisa Fisher Casto and Shawn Romano brought a little bit of The Art Store downtown for ArtWalk

Rob Hrezo, Joe Bolyard and Melanie Larch arting it up on Quarrier Street

You Want FestivALL? We Got FestivALL!

Presented for you convenience, and also as proof that your PopCulteer has not been slacking off, are the FOUR episodes of Radio Free Charleston that have been posted this week. This is 84 minutes of the first weekend of FestivALL.

We’re probably going to do four more next week. God help us.

That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. We’re still neck-deep in FestivALL, so God only knows what will turn up in this blog next week.