By John F. Kaiser III – Navarro County Gazette
Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Clyde Edgerton, Walking Across Egypt opened on June 10, and is currently running at the Ennis Public Theatre through June 20. Director Julie Mitchell has crafted a show that will get you laughing, get you thinking, and keep you talking well past leaving the theatre’s doors.
I came into this production not knowing anything about the piece and will do my best to highlight the performances without giving too much away, as it gave an extra something to the experience going in blind. What you should know before going in though, is that you are in for some hearty laughs and poignant conversations.
Walking Across Egypt centers around Mattie Rigsbee, masterfully played by Corsicana’s own Sharon Goodman, who after a few mishaps at home, feels she is slowing down in her later years and starts pulling out of social engagements and obligations. Mattie finds herself both figuratively and literally stuck in a rut, which thanks to inspiring words from her reverend and the kindness and family of Lamar the dog catcher, she begins her personal “walk across Egypt”.
Scenes are broken up with hymns (choir is dual cast with Lauren Allen and Glenda Kaye Quinn) and sermons from Reverend Bass, John Blewitt (who is actually a retired Presbyterian minister) which act as thematic setups to the story as it plays out. The audience is encouraged to sing along and shout out their “amens” if the spirit moves them so, to which the audience I was a part of most certainly did, even during non-church segments when themes of the play really hit.
Mattie’s son Robert, played by WLAC favorite Cody Beauchamp, delivers a solid performance as the dutiful and concerned son who really loves lamps. Nosey neighbors Finner and Alora Swanson, played by Markus Baldwin and Nikki Crosland, provide much of the comic relief. They mean well, but just cannot seem to leave well enough alone. Baldwin in particular, at times, steals the show with his well intentioned “heroics” displaying some impressive physical comedy. Crossland makes a great straight-man to Baldwin’s antics and keeps the pair grounded and relatable.
Rounding out the cast are the talented Josh McDaniel as the troubled but good-hearted dog catcher Lamar Benfield and Katlyn Welborn as his cousin Wesley, a troubled youth with a checkered past. Their interactions with Mattie make up a good portion of the heart of this show, and each actor does a great job of taking you on their journey. Last, but not least, to mention is Jess Haupt as Sheriff Tillman, whose size and demeanor bring a believable presence to the law enforcement officer.
I cannot recommend seeing this show enough. The ensemble cast is top notch, its packed with laughs, and wrapped up in a thought provoking message that should inspire all who see it to lift up the least of our brethren. One warning – you may be seriously craving cornbread by the time the show ends. I know I was.
Tickets can be purchased at ennispublictheatre.com or by calling 972.878.7529. Remaining performances are Fri. Feb. 19 and Sat. Feb 20 @ 7:30 pm, and Sun. Feb. 21 @ 2:30 pm.
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