Theater: TheatreWorks closes season with 'Change'

TheatreWorks’ final production of the season recalls one of the most dramatic periods in U.S. history, the 1960s Kennedy era. “Caroline, or Change” is a personal reflection from this climate of societal struggle in the South.

The musical, which opened on Broadway in May 2004, tells an autobiographical story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, who wrote the book and lyrics. The score is by Jeanine Tesori.

Kushner revisits his childhood in Lake Charles, La., highlighting changes in the lives of a Jewish family, the Gellmans, and their 39-year-old black maid, Caroline Thibodeaux.

Her close relationship with Noah, the Gellmans’ young son, is dashed when Noah’s stepmother tells her to teach him a lesson by keeping any change she finds in his wash. Thus Caroline is dealing with two “changes.”

C. Kelly Wright, who plays Caroline, calls the character bruised but not broken, a person who feels where there is life, there is hope, along with pain and heartache.

She says, “Although Caroline sees the change around her, she does not feel a part of it. She is dealing with the harsh realities of life, barely making enough to feed her family. Caroline is not only sad, but always angry. My job is to paint the colors of Caroline so people come out seeing a whole woman. This is much more a universal story where many people find themselves stuck in a situation where they can’t find a solution.”

Wright finds the role emotionally intense as well as vocally challenging. “I have to work to balance the journey, not get ahead of myself. Moments in this show are so sad, I have to remember I’m throwing the party, not at the party.”

“Caroline, or Change” runs through April 27 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Tickets are $25 to $61. Call (650) 903-6000 or visit www.theatreworks.org.

SAN MATEO HIGH SPRING SHOW

Capturing love and marriage in Eastern society, San Mateo High Drama department presents “The Philadelphia Story” from May 1-4.

Director Brad Friedman says, “It’s a pleasure to enter the genteel, elegant world of Main Line Philadelphia. Come and enjoy a delightful, witty evening of theater.”

Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Barry wrote the story as a play for Katharine Hepburn. The actress later purchased the movie rights and sold them to MGM, and starred in the lead role of the film.

The main character is Tracy Lord, an heiress who is preparing for her second marriage. The fun begins when her first husband shows up on the scene. Arriving with a tabloid reporter and photographer, they stir up trouble.

The show is onstage at San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St. Performances are at 8 p.m. May 1-3 and 2 p.m. May 4. Tickets are $10 to $15. Visit www.smhsdrama.org. For group tickets, call (650) 558-2375.

jgross@examiner.com

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