About the same time a musical version of the 1975 cult documentary “Grey Gardens” was being produced for Broadway, Wilmington playwright David Robson, a founder of Painted Bird Productions, was working on a straight-play loosely based on the film. The Broadway show opened in November. Robson’s piece, “A Few Small Repairs,” premiers this month at the 2nd Stage at the
Adrienne in Philadelphia.
The documentary is a true story based on two women, Edith Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith, who lived in an opulent mansion called Grey Gardens. Though they were kin to Jacqueline Onassis, their lives were very different. During a 20-year descent to hell, they lived in isolation and squalor until Jackie (and, OK, Aristotle) bailed them out. The film and musical started there. Robson’s version starts earlier.
“I was more interested in how these women arrived at this point in their lives,” Robson says. “The film never answers that question.”
“A Few Small Repairs” features several Philadelphia Barrymore Award winners and nominees, including Robson’s wife, Sonja.
Robson’s dark comedy delves into the horrors of co-dependency—in this case, a parent-child relationship that’s fraught with issues. “I wondered what would happen if a child lived with her parents for 50 years,” Robson says. “Would they strangle each other? Or would they develop a deeper understanding of each other?”
What happens to older Edith is worth finding out.
For tickets, call (215) 563-4330 or visit paintedbirdproductions.org. —Maria Hess
One is small and rustic. The other is elegant and, well, grand. So Arden Gild Hall and the Grand Opera House don’t appear to have much in common, though both do value quality entertainment and bring great performers to Delaware audiences. The two join on March 1 in an unprecedented collaboration to present Angelique Kidjo. The songstress blends the West African traditions of her homeland with American soul, jazz influences and Caribbean rhythms. Grammy-nominated Kidjo is inspired by music from around the world, writing songs and singing in four languages, so there’s no telling what you’ll hear, but rest assured it will be great. For more, call 652-5577, or visit www.grandopera.org.
When Kathleen Shelly discovered the Delaware Choral Society, she was “at her lowest ebb,” she says. “It brought me back to life.”
She is now president of Dover’s revered community choir, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.
On March 4, the society will join forces with the Mid-Atlantic Orchestra to present George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” one of the world’s most renowned oratorios. For the May gala, the singers will add John Rutter’s “Feel the Spirit,” as well a newly commissioned work by Wilmington composer Michael Helman.
That sounds like a difficult proposition for even the most accomplished singers, yet the Delaware Choral Society has been performing such works since 1957. The mission has always been to offer musical opportunities to all people of central Delaware. No singer, despite skill level, has ever been turned away.
That could invite trouble, yet there isn’t a note of dissonance, thanks to conductor Judith Moore, who has led the group since 1988. Yet Moore, who trained at Elmhurst College in Illinois and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, credits the singers.
“They’re a wonderful group of people,” she says. “Amateur singers come together and, with very hard work and education, make beautiful music. It really is quite inspiring for those listening, too.”
Shelly says that mastering the pieces is fulfilling, but community service is the society’s most meaningful contribution. “You have to remember that this is not Wilmington,” she says. “Our cultural venues are few and far between. We are permanent music makers.”
They are also people from all walks of life.
“For me, this is my craft, my passion,” Moore says. “For the singers, it’s a soulful expression, a cohesive community.”
Reserve tickets by calling 242-0328 or visiting www.delawarechoralsociety.org. —Maria Hess
Quilts are the quintessential American handicraft. They trace family histories and mark milestones such as births and weddings. With complex patterns and intricate needlework, quilts are also a true art. On March 10, Winterthur will place some of its 300 examples on display in the Graves and West Galleries in “Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection.” The 40 featured quilts range in date from the 17th to the 19th century. For more, call 888-4600, or visit www.winterthur.org.