The way we were

Crumbs from the Table of Joy

Rated 3.0

This beautifully written memory play describes a transplanted African-American family that settles in New York around 1950. A recent widower, played with subtle sincerity by Jerry Blake, has left the deep South and his own wild, occasionally boozing ways behind. He’s started over in a new sober, religious life, and he’s brought his two teenage daughters with him.

Then his late wife’s sister turns up. She’s a leftist and a prototype feminist and is not averse to drinking and late nights at bebop clubs. When conflict inevitably arises, the widower gets into a surprise marriage, further unsettling the household.

The play is staged with low-key charm. Actress Chenelle Doutherd shines as the widower’s shy elder daughter (the viewpoint character). Torn between her rural past and urban present, she tells the audience what really happened to this very interesting family, as well as the way she wishes things had turned out. These comparisons are a lot of fun.

Alicia Bellamy plays the worldly, proto-revolutionary Lily, who tries once or twice to claim her late sister’s husband as her own man. Sixteen-year-old Araba Brown does nicely as the younger daughter, Ermina. Pat Parsell enters the family as the widower’s new wife and has several intense scenes politely facing down Lily.

There’s been at least one other Sacramento production of Crumbs from the Table of Joy (at California Stage), and of course the play’s been done at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere. But a lot of people have never seen it. This production at Celebration Arts may not be the definitive version, but it gets the important points across. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a thoughtful, reflective play during a season when many Sacramento stages are featuring lighter fare.