The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that "you can’t step in the same river twice." It’s a lovely aphorism, with such obvious surface truth, and, it wouldn’t stick in our minds, except that in memories…especially emotional ones…we’re always trying to put the toe of today into the stream of yesterday.
It’s just such an effort that’s motivated playwright Arthur Feinsod to write "Table 17" which is enjoying its premiere at the Crossroads Repertory Theatre in a production directed by Tony Hall. An East Coast Jewish family and their former black domestic servants gather around a will. The family grandmother has left most of a substantial fortune to the servants.
With money, love, race, past insults and slights, and different attitudes of the generations all on the table we get a very messy picture with some fascinating character study.
The grandmother, whose will is at the center of the action, appears as a feisty ghost played by Beverley Barton Seaver. I’d have welcomed more of her.
The Jewish family is the daughter and her two sons. Sharon Ammen played the aggrieved Shirley Krain. Peter Papadopoulos was the lawyer son whose guilt over having taken the love of his caregiver away from her own children seems to put his even handedness in question. Chris Layton was the poetry writing son, who despite high artistic goals would love to have some extra money to support his habit.
The servants who sat at the Table 17 of the family gathering for the lawyer son’s bar mitzvah were Regina, Winston and Denise. Regina. Diane Weaver, had been the maid of the crusty grandmother. At first, in a surprising move, she simply refused the money. Weaver is a terrific actress, a woman who can make the careful opening of a door a major theatrical event. Winston Todd, was the servant who’d felt the most demeaned and he’s also the one who wants the money the most. Michael Cherrie, was by turns warmly amusing and bitterly angry. Koqunia L. Forte was charming as Denise, the girl whose mother had left her to go up north to mother another family. These are certainly enough characters with enough issues for any play, but playwright Feinsod is, if anything generous.
Somehow, and I can’t figure out how, the lawyer gets the contending parties to agree to a séance to summon the grandmother to clear things up once and for all. Sam McCready did a terrific turn appearing as the Irish mystic Seamus O’Brady. He delivered a long and very entertaining monologue on Black/Jewish unity in the late 1940s around as story of the person of the great singer Paul Robeson. It’s a neat piece, but the grandmother refuses to appear.
Many things have been given an airing out, some neither to the credit of either group. The settlement of the will, the mechanism which brought everyone together, is left in flux, but there is a brief final emotional scene as the family’s son, the young lawyer and the servant’s daughter, tentatively share the dance they almost had at that long ago bar mitzvah.
So, despite Heraclitus’s pronouncement, in "Table 17" playwright Arthur Feinsod, has put his foot in that river again, and I think, that–as he hoped–found that the river has changed and so has the foot.
The Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s production of "Table 17" has its final performance Tuesday the 24th in the New Theatre on the ISU campus at 7:30.
You can find an interview with the playwright on our Arts Interviews page .