The setting is "June 1948, in Cleveland's economically depressed Central neighborhood." The characters are married couple Mamie (Yolande Bruce) and Raymond (Brian A. Grandison), who moved north years ago from Alabama to make a better life for themselves. The situation is that Raymond is laid up on the couch after falling off a roof that he was fixing (with more to that story we will later learn). Since he's currently unable to work, Mamie can't afford to take a day off from her job cleaning a rich white lady's home to care for him, so she asks her nurse friend to send over someone who can stay with him while she's gone - make sure he takes his meds, feed him, and whatever else he needs. The conflict is that they were expecting a young black girl, but what arrives on their doorstop is what appears to be a well-to-do married white woman (played by Laura Esping). Mamie is skeptical to say the least, but there's no time to make any other plans, so she leaves Raymond under Bessie's care, with a list of chores.
|Raymond (Brian A. Grandison), Bessie (Laura Esping) and|
Mamie (Yolande Bruce, photo by LK Bachman)
The four characters are all specifically drawn by the playwright and beautifully embodied by the cast, making them believable and real. The design also feels very real. Scenery and property designer Michael Burden has created a home that feels lived in but well cared for, with details that continue beyond doors to areas that are barely seen. The lighting is important to the story as Raymond is sensitive to light and barks orders about which lights can be on and which curtains must be closed, and lighting designer Thomas Barrett makes it all work smoothly, including soft lighting when a character is telling a story that enhances the effect of it. Amber Brown's costume design, from Bessie's neat and precise dresses, to Mamie's maid uniform, to Raymond's rumpled pajamas, complete the look of this 1948 Cleveland home.
Under this Roof continues through May 20 in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio as part of the Level 9 Initiative, with all tickets just $9.