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WTT's Spunk raucous bliss

The cast of Spunk
The cast of Spunk
WaterTower Theatre

Spunk

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Vibrant, buoyant, blazing with ferocity, Spunk, is a show based on short stories by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by George C. Wolfe, and closing at the WaterTower Theatre in Addison, this weekend. Hurston made vital contributions to The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's and Spunk crackles with avid, scintillating, sybaritic emotion. A flagrant, raucous mix of blues guitar (courtesy of Kevin MacIntosh) image-driven African American dialect, saucy dance and trenchant song, Spunk is compromised of three narratives : Sweat, Story in Harlem Slang, and The Gilded Six Bits.

Sweat finds Delia and her husband, Sykes, sharing a home where Delia does all the work, and Sykes makes her life miserable, picking fights because she works for white folks, though Sykes doesn't work at all. He sees another woman on the side, flaunting his disrespect for Delia, who supports him. He brings home a live rattlesnake in a basket, hoping to scare Delia off the premises. Story in Harlem Slang is a duel between giggolos who dress with panache in their loud, boldly colored suits, squaring off like tropical birds in a mating dance. The Gilded Six Bits explores the distinction between perceived and actual prosperity, abundance of charity and concealed strings of obligation. Joe and Missie May are basking in the radiance of love until Otis T. Slemmons of Chicago shows up, convincing Joe that Missie May might have done better.

Spunk is a richly kinetic convergence of poetry, music, audacity, sorrow, motion, color and celebration. Wolfe may have relied too heavily on narration, and the rapid swirl of events and boisterous, salient jargon can be difficult to follow, but the net effect is intoxicating and exhilarating. It's beguiling the way Hurston builds a narrative from a central metaphor. In Sweat the rattlesnake is an evocation of menacing, fierce maleness ( i.e. male genitals) and In Gilded Six Bits, gifts of coin and luxury are considered in contrasting situations. Is sexuality in marriage a kind of benign commerce? There are layers to these one acts that take us beyond plot detail and dialogue. Director Akin Babatunde and this remarkable, spectacular cast (Joshua Bridgewater, Tiffany D. Hobbs, Kevin MacIntosh, Marcus M. Mauldin, Liz Mikel, Calvin Roberts) has brewed a cauldron of simmering, shimmering vivacious rapture, just for us.

Spunk plays at WaterTower Theatre in Addison, from April 11th through May 4th, 2014. 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001. 972-450-6232. www.watertowertheatre.org