The Dance on Widow’s Row

The Dance on Widow’s Row; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$15. Celebration Arts, 4469 D St.; (916) 455-2787; Through March 18.

Celebration Arts Theatre

4469 D St.
Sacramento, CA 95819

(916) 455-2787

Rated 2.0

The first off-book “stumble-through” is a very difficult experience for every production. It’s the first time the actors are without scripts onstage and attempting to make it through the play without stopping, and it is fraught with mistakes and technical difficulties. It’s also a natural part of the show’s life.

These mistakes are made so they can be corrected before opening. But in the case of Celebration Arts’ latest offering, The Dance on Widow’s Row, written by Samm-Art Williams and directed by James Wheatley, it doesn’t appear that even delaying the opening by one week was enough. It’s a choppy production that looks and feels like a stumble-through.

The play is the story of four widows who live on the same street. They invite four men over to have a potentially sexy soirée, but only three men show up. The rest of the comedy is an extension of the joke that all the women murdered their husbands and that all of the men are afraid of being killed.

Rob Anthony Gray, a regular on the Celebration Arts stage, plays the part of Deacon Hudson well, despite the less than stellar circumstances. The rest of the cast brings energy aplenty, but either they have a weak grasp on their lines or there was so much confusion with two actors not knowing the script that everyone else lost their places.

One actor sat on the stage, leafing through the script noisily while the play was in full swing. This not only distracted from the production, but also created frequent whispers throughout the audience around this critic.

In spite of the tense atmosphere, many comedic parts of the play shine bright. The actors’ choices with their characters are solid, and all dedicate themselves to the play and its ridiculous plot.

This marks an important point for Celebration Arts’ reputation: Is it theatre that challenges and enlightens—as in their productions of A Raisin in the Sun and Dutchman, to name just two—or will they be known for a lack of preparedness and craft? Better to delay the opening further for a show worthy of their talents.