Sunday, December 20, 2009

It Takes Two to Tango: Ties That Bind Us

Compact Disc Review
It Takes Two to Tango
Ties That Bind Us

Available from Leeny Del Seamonds, Two to Tango Productions, P.O. Box 1268, Westford, MA 01886-1433, Phone: 978-692-3961. Email: $17.00 (includes shipping & handling)

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

     Master Story Performer ™ Leeny Del Seamonds values the sage advice and wisdom of family members whose love, guidance, and patience have helped her develop solid relationships. Such blessings, she says, are the ties that bind us. Such blessings are the theme is this unique recording.

     Leeny’s father, known as Del, shared his wisdom with her through wise advice that she refers to as “Del-isms”. “It takes two to tango,” he warns her, “and it takes two to tangle.” The difference, while subtle, makes a world of difference.

     Leeny illustrates the wisdom he bestowed upon her through the stories on this CD. In Purgy-Tory, Leeny shares the terror that caused her to stop speaking when five neighbor boys told her that even unintentional fibs would scar her heart with black marks that would send her to purgatory, a holding cell for hell. The pain there, they said, would feel like 11,000 toaster burns.

     Who Rules the Roost, follows 2 friends who try to answer the age old question of who is head of the family: the husband or the wife. Chuckles abound as the listener accompanies them on their journey.

     Party Girl, which starts out to be a celebration of the party life, takes a serious turn when a routine surgery results in an out of body experience that requires a decision be made between the “big party up in heaven” and rejoining the human race.

     In Tres Perros en Miami, a Labrador retriever, a bulldog, and a Chihuahua vie for the love of a poodle. Which one will meet her test and win her heart?

     La Cucarachita Rosa Maria is the story of a cockroach who tries every modern means available to find love (My Space, Twitter, Speed Dating), only to find that the good old-fashioned way is still the best. It also serves as a “pourquoi story”: why are there so many cockroaches on this planet?

     My personal favorite on this CD is The Stinking Dragon, a delightful story set at a renaissance fair. Leeny, a theater major who spent time acting in New York, came to storytelling, “through a stage door.” This story reveals that a future generation stands ready to amaze us.

     The CD appropriately ends with We Sing as One, a jaunty song that is an ode to a better world.

     Leeny Del Seamonds’ recordings never fail to engage the listener with their passionate wit and simple truths. It Takes Two to Tango, however, goes one step further and tugs at the heart. It will be a cherished addition to any story lover’s collection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tales Through Time: Women of the South

Tales Through Time:
Women of the South

By Joan Leotta and Edith Edwards

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

As a celebration of southern women from the Colonial Era through the present day, Tales Through Time: Women of the South gives the reader an intimate peek at the romance, mystery, friendships, and betrayals that ultimately claim us all. Excellently researched and skillfully written, reading these stories, one after the other, is like traveling in a time machine from period to period. “Historical fact was simply our springboard,” the authors state. “After all, only a few facts are needed to kindle the fire of a good tale.”

The authors complement one another well. Joan Leotta’s polished narration and Edith Edwards’ daring choice of subject matter satisfy the reader’s appetite like a well-prepared meal. The stories in this collection pay tribute to various genres, including horror (Reflections of Evil), humor (Preacher Parker Learns a Lesson, The Wayward Mop), romance (Fan Coral, Love in Time of War), suspense (Recipe for Murder), and historical fiction (every story in this book).

All fourteen stories in this collection are well worth the read, but two are especially engaging. A Recipe for Murder involves Leah, a Latin expert and a specialist on the life of Julius Caesar, who makes two significant discoveries: a personal note to Caesar hidden inside an ancient fasces, and a personal betrayal that will change her life. The title tells you that a murder will be committed; the victim of that murder, however, is a surprise twist that will shock the reader.

In Preacher Parker Learns a Lesson, a crooked preacher is exposed by a clever boy who does not fear the consequences of his scheme. Indeed, he operates from righteous indignation, delighting the reader, who will surely have a good laugh at Preacher Parker’s expense.

Leotta is also a skilled professional storyteller who brings her stories to life with spoken as well as written words. She presently tells Fan Coral, included in this book’s Colonial Era, and is developing a show based on The Hurricane of Independence, also included in this book.

This book is a well-rounded and enjoyable reading experience. It gives the reader a bird’s eye view of what southern women have faced throughout the history of our country. These steel magnolias are survivors. Their strength is our hope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Earl Hamner's The Homecoming

     This past Friday night, I went to Afton, Virgina to see the Hamner Theater's production of Earl Hamner's The Homecoming.  I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed.

     My sister, my niece, and I arrived early and had dinner at D'Ambola's.  I am happy that we got there before then sun went down.  The blue mountains were gorgeous as the sunset.  We sat by the window and enjoyed the view.

     After dinner we mosied on down to the Hamner.  I am glad that I made reservations early.  The show runs every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from November 19 through December 13, and every single performance is sold out.

     If you are not familiar with The Homecoming, it is the story of a family waiting for its father to come home on Christmas Eve.  The father lost his job locally (the play is set during the Great Depression) and is now working out of town in Waynesboro.  The snow is falling, and travel is questionable at best.

     The audience waits anxiously with the family, but the wait is a rewarding one because the various characters introduced are engaging. There is Clay-Boy Spencer, who shoulders his father's burden when he is away, and Olivia Spencer, a loving mother whose sterness masks her worry.  The nine children in the cast are delightful.

     Birdshot Sprouse, Clay-Boy's supportive friend, always appears when needed most.  Reverend Hawthorne Dooley is a soulful black preacher who aids Clay-Boy when he is sent to search for his father.  The Staples sisters, who provide their neighbors with holiday "recipe", provide comic relief, as well as comfort and joy.

     The Homecoming has two casts.  I saw cast A.  Mary Coy played Olivia Spencer with just the right mix of angst and strength.  I could not help but compare her to Patricia Neal, who protrayed Olivia in the television movie.  Mary was not found wanting.  She is excellent.

     Michael Dowell played the adult Clay-Boy who narrates throughout the play.  The wistful glimmer in his eye, his strong yet gentle voice, his honest portrayal of a man who knows he will always live some part of his life in the past - all these things worked together give the show integrity and authenticity.

     Director Boomie Pederson told me that between the two casts, there were 32 children.  I must admit to being amazed by the performances of the children in cast A.  Never once did I doubt that they were a family.  I actually forgot that they were acting.

     I must commend Boomie Pederson's direction.  She is innovative and always on top of her game.  Even when the actors are excellent, Boomie's touch can be seen tying everything into place so that each scene blends seamlessly into the next.

     Most folks know that The Homecoming was spun off into The Waltons, as series that ran on CBS for nine years.  I think I will look for the show on DVD.  I do not want to leave this family behind.