Detroit Repertory Company speaks to community in 'Still Waters'

by Mary L. Anglin

Can love and forgiveness find a place in a world full of cynicism, sexism and war?

That's the question asked by Michigan playwright Claudia Allen in her play "Still Waters," now running at the Detroit Repertory Theatre.

"Still Waters" begins in the midst of World War II: most of the men of a sleepy little Michigan town have gone off to war, leaving the women behind to fend for themselves. In such dire times, old prejudices are temporarily set aside, allowing Myrtle, an ordained minister, to step in when the town's pastor dies. But as the war comes to a close and the men start to come back, pressure rises to push Myrtle out of her "unnatural" position.

You could say "Still Waters" is a feminist play; its main conflicts concern feminist issues, mainly "what is a woman's proper place in a marriage, a family and society." But the play is humorous and moving on a deeply human level as well—it is hardly a political diatribe.

The cast as a whole is wonderful; Detroit Rep obviously knows how to cultivate and hang on to good actors. Ruth Allen is delightfully daffy as Myrtle's mother Daisy, and Henrietta Hermelin and William Boswell are perfectly cast as Gertie, Myrtle's deeply troubled yet sweetly sincere cousin, and Tom, her obnoxious and confused husband. But Sandra Love Aldridge gives a truly inspiring performance as the strong, loving Myrtle; she is the glue that holds the ensemble together, just as her character holds her family together.

Although this is only the second production I have seen at Detroit Rep, it is plain to me that they are a community theatre in the truest and best sense of the term—theatre involving and speaking to their community. As long as they continue to produce little gems like "Still Waters," they deserve their community's support.

"Still Waters" runs through December 31st at the Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson in Detroit. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $14.00. For reservations or more information, call the Detroit Repertory Theatre Box Office at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

(Originally published in The South End, Nov. 1995)