Actors on stage wearing red aprons throwing pages of paper up in the air

Actors on stage wearing red aprons throwing pages of paper up in the air ()

When Percy Talbott gets off the bus in Gilead, Wisconsin, she finds herself in a town quite unlike the one she expected when she circled the place in a travel magazine during her ten-year prison sentence.

Played by Iryna Osipova in her debut performance at KMC Onstage, Percy sets a moody bluegrass tone that rises to an emotional peak in her first scene as the new waitress at the Spitfire Grill. Her new employer, Hannah Ferguson, played exquisitely by TSgt Chanel Mobley-Rosenthal, comes across as an occasionally comedic, crotchety grandma-type who reluctantly takes Percy on when the local Sheriff and parole officer, played by Michael Malone, introduces her as some new help for the diner. “Another body in here won’t cure my hip,” Hannah quips. In an explosive situation, Percy must out herself as an ex-con before the townsfolk spiral into deeper rumors.

Two people sitting on a bench on stage. One woman is singing looking up into the sky; the other has their head in the lap of the person singing as if in anguish.

Two people sitting on a bench on stage. ()

Other locals are even less welcoming. Effy, played by Britni Hays-Matkovich in her KMC Onstage debut, is the local gossip who is perfectly poised to gather everyone’s information as a postal employee. Then, there are Caleb and Shelby Thorpe, who couldn’t be more opposite in their opinion of the new addition to Gilead. While Caleb is immediately suspicious, Shelby is welcoming and in need of a new friend.

The theater space at KMC Onstage Studio has been transformed for the performance of The Spitfire Grill, which is directed by Faith Webster. With this new iteration, the Studio shows the benefit of its flexibility. Using both a raised stage and floor space allows the audience, seated around two sides of the floor, to feel integrated into the diner. The addition of a projected display at the rear and a small orchestra of live music truly add to the immersive experience.

Group of actors on stage acting out a scene in a diner.

Group of actors on stage acting out a scene in a diner. ()

Having met the townsfolk, the musical progresses as expected. For a while. Percy settles in and we believe the performance will be about her new life. In reality, we begin to discover that each of these people has more depth and a few ghosts in the closet. They constantly remind us that Gilead is a run-down, sad town: the quarry has closed, the local hero lost to war, and a pervasive sadness has taken over. In addition, the Spitfire Grill has been on the market for ten years. It still does a fair business, but “Did we mention that the Spitfire is the only place in town?”

The diner is also the focus of the stage space. Small set touches and use of props like table menus and condiments, the constant pouring of coffee, and the raised kitchen give the Spitfire Grill a life of its own. It is the heart of this small, rural community that has seen better days.

The introduction of Percy into this environment is the catalyst Gilead needs to emerge from the dust. Her unique plan for bringing in a new owner for the diner gives the town a jolt of shared interest. Her friendship with Shelby helps empower the latter to advocate for herself against her chauvinist husband, who, we find, is also dealing with his own internal battles against society’s expectations of men. Percy uncovers Hannah’s long-held secrets and she helps Sheriff Sutter see the beauty of the forests he has grown to believe is a confinement to his freedom.

In the end, we discover that this is not a musical about Percy, but instead a story of growth within an entire community. This performance takes heart, and the cast is fully committed to expressing the deep emotions needed. The musical shows us that we all have growing to do and that people are there to help us along the way. Perhaps, though, we all just need a little catalyst – perhaps in the shape of an ex-con with an appreciation for the small things like friendship, community, and fresh air that make life joyous.

Spitfire Grill will be playing one final weekend at the KMC Onstage Studio.

Visit Webtrac to purchase tickets (there is a $2 surcharge at the door).

Final Performance Dates:

February 9 at 7:00 p.m.

February 10 at 7:00 p.m.

February 11 at 2:00 p.m.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for a long while. Currently, she is in the depths of an archaeology dissertation for a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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