My old Southern Gothic home
Think Fried Green Tomatoes, then add poetic language and subtract the Klan for a one-line description of Charlotte Higgins’ one-woman show, Alabama Bound. Currently being produced and directed by Higgins at Midtown’s Geery Theatre, this series of monologues is brought to life by noted local actress Linda Nalbandian.
Higgins crafted the piece from her memories of growing up in the South she describes and based them on the work of photographer Eileen Lewis. A series of Lewis’s stunning photos of Southern women from all walks of life opens the performance, adding emotional power to the work that follows.
But it’s Nalbandian who gives the show both depth and breadth, bringing to life a disparate group of women who share, ultimately, one thing: being female in the South, where custom and convention carry more power—even now—than we might otherwise imagine.
The characters include a 911 dispatcher who takes, as her last call before a casino getaway, a domestic disturbance report from a 6-year-old boy. She’s followed by an elderly woman in a nursing home who reports, wryly and humorously, on the goings-on there; an unhappy housewife trapped by her demanding husband and his even more demanding mother; a beautician in an upscale department store who dreams of the high society just beyond her reach; and a prison inmate, whose disquisition on those of us who seem to be born under “unlucky stars” is heartbreaking.
That is, in fact, the very definition of Southern Gothic: the mixture of humor and heartbreak, in close to equal portions. In Alabama Bound, Higgins demonstrates how that blend is the difference between survival and destruction for the women who share her Southern roots.