QUILTERS Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle The Ross Valley Players are currently presenting QUILTERS: A MUSICAL, multi-multi-layered collaborative piece derived from a book written by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, set to music and lyrics by Barbara Damashek, Directed by Marin’s first lady of Theatre: Linda Dunn, with Musical Direction by Gloria Wood and Choreographed by Linda Dunn. This whole ménage is rests on a foundation book by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Hall: THE QUILTERS: WOMEN AND DOMESTIC ART: AN ORAL HISTORY. While it may take many pieces of fabric to make a quilt, it also requires many talents to stitch together an entertaining tableau that features a detailed, dramatic portrait of pioneer life on the prairie, fashioned from songs, stories and dances. There seem to exist as many origins to quilting as there are quilt designs. The Puritans, who liked the concept of God’s providence—hence Providence, Rhode Island and Providence Town, Massachusetts—were not ones to waste anything. To waste was an affront to their Benefactor; they used the Book of Mark to justify their steadfast position. “Mark 6:41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. Mark 6:42 And they did all eat, and were filled. Mark 6:43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. Mark 6:44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” The Puritans paid careful attention to the fact that the left-overs were gathered up: not wasted. The allegory was not lost on Quilters: no scrap or fragment of textile was too small, too faded or too worn to not be incorporated into a quilt. Like the play itself, the quilt was multi-layered both in its form and function: it chronicled the life and history of the quilters and kept them warm inside their sod hovels. This production owes much to the lustrous voices of Dawn Marie Hamilton and Olivia Harrison. Lighting Design by Les Lizama is a conspicuous asset to the show: the back drop seems to change colors like a Mood Ring always reflecting the emotional tenor of the play. Costuming, always a challenge to the community theater, is superbly handled by Michael Berg who gives everyone a prairie homespun look without casting a pale of shapeless dowdiness over the lovely actresses. Perhaps because the play is drafted and crafted nearly bereft of men, it remains centered on what is real, what is essential and what is truly valuable in life: the play is a celebration of the very essence of life. In a world where a sense of material wellbeing is declining like a Mosler Safe dropped from the cargo ramp of a C-130 Hercules, it is nice to be buoyed by a core belief in simple virtues, gifts and pleasures: all of which seem to be manifest in the quilting tradition. You may have lost your 401K, motor yacht and Time-Share in Vegas, but if you have a bag of rags, a needle and thread, you can get busy creating a family treasure. For tickets to a restorative, upbeat and heartwarming evening’s entertainment, call 415-456-9555 or surf on over to www.rossvalleyplayers.com.