Maytag Virgin sparkles at The Williamston
WILLIAMSTON, MI–“Does a good heart just break and break until it gets good at being broken?” A thought provoking line with a multitude of deeper meanings and interpretations cycle around this quote in a Maytag Virgin by Audrey Celfaly currently running at the Williamston Theatre in Michigan until March 10th.
This play is a heartwarming and intimate portrayal of two widowed neighbors navigating grief and unexpected connection. Real-life husband and wife and co-founders of the Williamston Theatre, John Lepard and Emily Sutton-Smith deliver emotionally moving performances as Jack Key and Lizzy Nash, respectively, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters.
Set in Lenoraville, Alabama, the play explores the seemingly incompatible relationship between Lizzy, an Alabama Baptist English teacher on bereavement leave, and Jack, a Catholic physics teacher new to the neighborhood. Their backyards butt up together creating many more deliciously conflicting moments. The dynamic between Lizzy’s old-fashioned love for drying clothes on the line and Jack’s preference for modern conveniences like his comforting Maytag dryer sets the stage for both humorous and surprisingly emotional moments throughout the production.
Jack moved into Lizzy’s neighbor’s house after his and his wife’s passing, leaving a vacancy in the neighborhood. Even though Mick and Minnie are not actual characters in this play, Ms. Cefaly expertly uses love letters found tucked away in the porch to complement the awkward budding love story of Jack and Lizzy, as well as help heal the painful moments of the widowers own losses.
Under the direction of Williamston Theatre’s Artistic Director, Tony Caselli, the production sparkles with genuine chemistry between the actors. The creative team, including Shannon T. Schweitzer for lighting design and Julia Garlotte for sound design, excels in capturing the essence of a southern thunderstorm and the ambient sounds of a backyard, even incorporating modern elements of daily life into the soundscape. Garlotte did an superb job creating the backyard ambience of crickets and birds and even the sounds of jets passing overhead.
Attention to detail in the properties design and set dressing by Michelle Raymond elevates the entire production. From the intricate backyard ambiance to the subtle nuances in decor, Raymond’s work perfectly complements Celfaly’s script, enriching the audience’s immersion into Lizzy and Jack’s world right down to the miniature three wise elephant figurines on Lizzy’s porch.
Special recognition is also due to Production Assistant Adam Kruger and Assistant Stage Manager Rylan Houle, whose seamless integration of props, set pieces, and countless baskets of laundry adds a layer of authenticity and continuity as the story unfolds over the course of a year. Their dedication to maintaining the set’s realism by changing seasonal decorations in a manner of seconds, enhances the overall experience for the audience. I believe I even overheard an audience member wish that they too, wanted to install an outdoor clothesline.
Maytag Virgin is a touching exploration of love, loss, and the unexpected connections that bring healing. Williamston Theatre is amazing at picking shows that will tug at your heartstrings, leak emotions from your eyes, and wipe them away with guffaws of laughter. With standout performances, meticulous attention to detail, and a talented creative team, this production is a must-see for theatergoers seeking a touching and memorable experience sealed with an enormous kiss.