Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion offers some moments of truth and laughter.
By Kay Kipling
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe founder Nate Jacobs has played many roles over the years, both for his own company and others. But perhaps his most effective work so far remains his turn as Aunt Rudele, an outspoken, full-of-confidence Southern black woman who has a word of un-sought advice for just about everyone in her extended family.
It’s not that Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion, now playing at the Historic Asolo Theater, is a great work of art. But for a one-"woman," hour-long show Jacobs first began performing years ago, it does manage to both entertain and touch us at least a little, as the character addresses some family issues that apply to just about everyone, no matter what their station in life.
From the moment Jacobs arrives onstage, wearing a dress, pink hat and sunglasses and clutching a straw bag, Aunt Rudele demonstrates her force-of-nature personality. Yes, she will tell people, including her long-suffering husband Herbert, to shut up, and yes, she feels no hesitation in informing someone if she thinks there is a strange odor in their house. But no matter how outrageous her statements or stories (as for example how she was inspired to open her fried chicken restaurant by a dream of a flying chicken leg in the sky), there’s no doubt she loves her family, nieces, nephews, uncles and all. She just has her own way of showing it.
There are basically just three scenes to the show: Rudele’s arrival for the family reunion, the picnic get-together, and the aftermath of a family talent show where Rudele, of course, has to top everyone with her rendition of a song she herself wrote. So the staging is simplicity itself; it’s just the force of Rudele’s character, and the often very believable idiomatic language Jacobs has written and delivers, that carry us along for the ride.
Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion plays through May 17; call 360-7399 or go to ringling.org.