‘Saturday Night/Sunday Morning’ Is An Unpredictable Gem (5 Stars)

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning’ – Written by Katori Hall. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA, through November 21.

“Ain’t no peace in a house full of broken hearted women”, says Miss Mary (Jasmine Rush), the owner of a beauty salon and boardinghouse for young women. No peace, but plenty of entertainment and a curious emotional ride in Katori Hall’s riveting play. Hall manages to pack, among other things, racism, sexism, homophobia, war, illiteracy, and the foibles of attraction into a brisk two and a half hours, but there’s nothing didactic or preachy in her prose.  

Set at the end of World War II, “Saturday Night/Sunday Morning” takes places in Miss Mary’s boardinghouse. Miss Mary’s husband was a casualty of the war. Her boarders are a pair of sisters, the insecure and innocent Taffy (Meagan Dilworth) and the promiscuous Mabel (Cloteal L. Horne). Mabel’s husband is overseas fighting, while Taffy longs for the mailman, Buzz (Keith Mascoll). The toxically unhappy Leanne (Jade Guerra) sulks around the salon in her bathrobe, when she’s not in her room sobbing over the fact that her beau, Bobby, has not written in four years. When a new boarder, the educated and religious Gladys (Tasia A. Jones) appears, Mabel and Taffy convince her to write a letter from Bobby (Omar Robinson) so that Leanne will stop sulking. This action ricochets into all kinds of consequences, including the discovery of a secret that Gladys is harboring.

That said, this is a very funny and poignant play, made more so by the uniformly stellar cast. As Miss Mary, Rush rides a fine line between vexed and compassion, knowing when to let which emotion shine through. Dilworth’s Taffy is hilarious and touching. Guerra plays the self-centered, vacuous Leanne with tragicomic humor, even while telling her fellow boarders things like, “A pretty woman’s life is one of leisure and pleasure”. Tasia A. Jones brings gravity and despondency to the troubled Gladys. Horne gives us glimpses of Mabel’s vulnerability underneath a breezy restlessness. Jovial customers Jackie (Jackie Davis) and Dot (Ramona Lisa Alexander) are both very funny, although Jackie is extremely affective in recounting the disgraceful way her soldier husband was treated after he returned from the war. Mascoll and Robinson provide equanimity against all of the feminine energy.

Mac Young’s gritty set works well with the realistic style of the play and performances.  There are stairs to be climbed, a stove on which to light cigarettes, a sink to wash hair in. Water drips through the ceiling when it rains. Ian W. King’s nuanced lighting design is a beautiful complement to the set.  But beneath it all are the bones of a great play.

“I don’t know where this is going,” I whispered to my friend at intermission. “Neither do I”, she said. It’s not often that a story surprises, is unpredictable, but not in a whimsical or annoying way. More like life, where people love what’s bad for them, shun what’s good, and every once in awhile, connect. For more info, go to: https://www.lyricstage.com/