If you love seeing new pieces of theater then get yourself over to Gremlin Theater, located conveniently by Lake Monster Brewing, to see Roller Derby Queen by Michelle Lepsche. The show drops us into the home and life of Florence (Nancy Marvy), a resident of Saint Paul’s east side who has a bit of a hoarding problem. We also get to know her daughters Mary Ellen (Caroyln Pool), a professional who tries to control everyone in her life, Mary Elizabeth (Sara Marsh), who still lives at home with her mother and struggles with independence, Abe (Andy Rocco Kraft), Mary Elizabeth’s boyfriend, and Scotty G (Ray Birk), Florence’s friend, a Vietnam veteran who is full of conspiracy theories.
All of the characters are beautifully fleshed out and brought to life by honest and true performances by all the actors involved. If you aren’t familiar with actors in the Twin Cities, please trust me that the cast put together for this show is a dream team. In the author’s note in the program Michelle Lepsche writes about the characters as though they came to her and demanded that their stories be told. This is very evident in the piece. The characters feel so familiar, like someone that who run into at the grocery store, or a church rummage sale.
The space is also transformed. The stage of the Gremlin Theater has been made into the living room of Florence’s house, scattered with antiques and old copies of Reader's Digest. I don’t know where the production team was able to get all of the items, I have never seen a stage so full. The design team obviously collaborated well to create the world of organized chaos that the audience enters. The show would not be the same without them. They are; scenic designer Katie Phillips, lighting designer Courtney Schmitz, associate lighting designer Phillip Uttech, sound design C Andrew Mayer and costumes by Mick E Platt.
At the end of the first act I was slightly confused as to why the play was called Roller Derby Queen, but it doesn’t take much into act 2 for many of our questions to be answered. Act 2 is where the play really shines, when the relationships and story blossom from something familiar into something touching.
Roller Derby Queen is a play about identity and it is a play about family. Not family like you see if so often in the movies, always warm and loving and seeming perfect, but families like we know them from living with them. Families where very member is flawed, and if you are lucky, regardless of history you are able to love them and not like them all at the same time.
Roller Derby Queen, the first work of SOS Theater is playing at the Gremlin Theater until November 26th.
More information about getting tickets can be found by clicking here.
*Photo courtesy of SOS Theater