Judi Ann Mason once said that the story was set in the past, present and future.
And as confusing as this may seem, Mason’s statement becomes crystal clear at the end of her play Indigo Blues: A Love Story.
Yes, there is a twist in this story — a major twist. But the only way to learn what happens is to attend UpStage Theatre’s production of this mix of comedy and drama, which opens Friday, May 18.
Now, there surely will be audience members who have seen one of UpStage’s previous productions of Mason’s play. The company staged it in 2008 and again in 2010.
Those audience members already will know the ending, and they’ll surely recognize Oonarissa Brown-Bernard as she steps into the role of Clara for the third time. They might even remember Byron Wade as he plays the role of Moses for the second time.
But it’s the story that brings them back.
“It’s UpStage’s favorite play, and it’s our audiences’ favorite,” Ava Brewster Turner said.
Turner is UpStage’s founder and artistic director, as well as director of this play.
“We’ll have audience members who will come and see it again, but we’ll have those who haven’t seen it before, too,” Turner said.
“And that’s what makes it a different show each time we put it on — we have a different audience each time.”
Turner and Mason were classmates at Grambling University and remained friends after graduation. Mason died in 2009. Her career spanned stage and television, and her play, Livin’ Fat, won the Norman Lear award.
UpStage produced Livin’ Fat in its 2011 season, but now it’s time to revisit the Boudreaux sisters’ world in Indigo Blues, which seems wrought with funerals.
Clara and Muriel are middle aged, both living in the home of their late parents.
Clara is the more dominating of the two. She’s been married. Even worse, she was married to Moses, the love of Muriel’s life.
And now, 30 years later, Moses has returned to the sisters’ south Louisiana home to attend their brother’s funeral. It also is his hope to make amends with Muriel, who dreamed of being a blues singer and even sang lead in Moses’ band.
“But Muriel’s parents didn’t approve of her being a blues singer,” Telisha Diaz said.
She’s the newcomer in this production in the role of Muriel, who smolders with resentment. Muriel gave up her prospective blues career at her father’s insistence, and she spent her life teaching school and taking care of her parents while Clara ventured out into the world.
But one thing remained constant — Muriel’s love for Moses.
“She never stopped loving him, and she loved only him,” Diaz said.
“And Moses comes back to tell her that he really loves her,” Wade added.
“And here he is in the middle of these two sisters, with Clara lavishing him with all kinds of attention. What man is going to ignore that? But then there’s Muriel, the woman he loves, but also the woman he treated so badly. And he wants to tell her that he loves her.”
Then comes the time warp. Indigo Blues backtracks into memories which have a direct effect on the present. But it’s the twist that leads to the future that will jar the audience.
And the audience won’t see it coming.
“It’s a surprise,” Wade said.
But what won’t be a surprise is Bernard’s performance in this production. She knows the part of Clara, so much that she doesn’t have to re-learn the lines.
“I like Clara,” Bernard said. “And I love this play. Clara hasn’t changed in any of the times I’ve played her, and the audience always likes her.”
Now, Bernard’s association with UpStage has led to other recent acting opportunities. The Investigation Discovery channel asked Turner to recommend an actor to portray Genore Guillory in one of its Fatal Encounters episode. Guillory was beaten, stabbed and shot in her home northeast of Clinton in June 2000. She was 42.
The episode was titled “Deadly Deeds” and aired nationally on April 24.
“I’m so grateful for that opportunity,” Bernard said. “We did it all in one take, and it was strange watching myself on television.”
But that’s a feeling Bernard can quickly shake, because she’s hoping for more television and film opportunities. She works full-time as a clothing designer in the meantime.
And she’s focusing on the character of Clara, who, with Muriel, lives in the past, present and future.
- CAST: Oonarissa Brown-Bernard, Clara Boudreaux; Telisha Diaz, Muriel Boudreaux; Bryon Wade, Moses Britton.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Ava Brewster Turner, director; Brittany Turner, production assistant; Clarence Duncan, production assistant; Barbara Oliver, costumes; Clifton Haston, music; Maddgame Entertainment, publicity.