Alex Leydenfrost and Rainbow Dickerson star in the Purple Rose Theatre's 'Redwood Curtain.' (Danna Segrest)
There is a little drama, a little humor and a little magic in “Redwood Curtain,” the production by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson at the Purple Rose Theatre.
Geri, a 17-year old piano prodigy, is searching for her birth father. While visiting her aunt in northern California, she meets homeless Vietnam veteran Lyman, who is hiding behind the curtain of the Redwood Forest. Geri discovers startling similarities between Lyman and her natural father, and decides he is the key to her true heritage.
“She’s adopted, but she kind of knows she’s a little bit different,” says Rainbow Dickerson, who plays Geri. “She’s desperately trying to figure out where she’s really from, who are her parents and why did things happen the way they did. So I think until she figures it all out, she feels like she can’t move forward in life.”
Stephanie Buck, who makes her professional directing debut with “Redwood Curtain,” says her approach to the play was to learn from the actors before giving specific direction.
“I really spent the first week trying to create opportunities for them to make choices and create moments on stage together,” she says.
Michelle Mountain, who plays Geri’s aunt Geneva, says one of the play’s strengths is that it is a three-person story.
“It’s not like two people with one person who facilitates a little bit of things,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re three distinct, whole characters who all have things to win and things to lose.’ ”
The winning and the losing to which Mountain refers are often offset with humor, particularly between her Geneva and Geri.
There aren’t a lot of show-stopping jokes, Buck says. “It’s just a really natural, light, funny sense of humor that this aunt and this niece share together. So they’re funny people, but the storyline isn’t funny.”
Off-Broadway actor Alex Leydenfrost, the play’s only male, says his character, Lyman, just wants to be left alone.
“He’s doing whatever he has to do to survive,” he shares. “This girl comes following him into the woods ’cause she believes her father is a G.I. who was in Vietnam, so she’s systematically interviewing homeless people. All he cares about is ‘just get away from me,’ and it takes off from there.”
Leydenfrost says he is honored to speak the words of Lanford Wilson, who he says is one of the great American playwrights. “It’s a compelling story.”
The play is completed, Buck suggests, by the design elements — from the costumes to the set, which is a display of constructed Redwood trees.
“Vince Mountain, who is Michelle Mountain’s husband, and one of our resident designers, gave us just a beautiful forest to play in for this show,” she says.
The set transitions into the inside of Geneva’s house, Buck explains. “And it is just stunning.”
Then there is the lighting and sound, she says, which is where the magic comes in.
“Geri very much has real magical powers,” Buck says. “And she doesn’t exhibit them too frequently throughout the play, but when she does, it matters. It’s going to be a wonderful little sound and light show.
Purple Rose Theatre
137 Park, Chelsea
Andrea Daniel is a freelance reporter.