Solo Show GRAPEFRUIT has added more performances to run at Stage Left Studio.
“In the midnight hour we are all transposed, transfigured, naked and deathless.” Such is the poetry of language expressed by the late playwright Sally Lambert in her final script, GRAPEFRUIT. Lambert never saw the work performed. She had written a play about surviving cancer—described to her in terms of produce by the medical staff—because she thought she had won the battle. What she left the world is a well-tooled play about hope, gracefully undertaken by actress Cheryl King and director Theresa Gambacorta, and now in the midst of a successful run at solo theatre gem Stage Left Studio in midtown Manhattan.
Garnering multiple rave reviews, the production team decided to “give back” to the community and to the cause that has become dear to them. On November 29, the show was presented as a benefit for Gilda’s Club. “Giving is its own reward,” says Ms. King, “but we were also rewarded with an audience demand for more shows.” The show was to complete its run before this Christmas, and thanks to the response, seven new performance dates have been added for 2012.
Lambert wrote the play for herself. Frustrated with the health care system and its reaction to those in need, balanced firmly against the insurance monolith, Lambert wanted to share her experience with audiences. Each step of her progress was charted by medical staff as “the size of grapefruit,” or whatever fruit or vegetable comparable to the size of the cancer as it grew inside of her. She eventually found answers and treatment that could work for her, but because of the slow moving cogs of the medical industry and its big brother “insurance,” it would be too late. The bittersweet journey of the play’s first attempts at production: Sally Lambert believed she would win. She presented the play to Cheryl King who hurriedly went about scheduling it in her treasured, intimate solo theatre space, Stage Left Studio (214 W. 30th Street, 6th Floor). But before the play began rehearsals, Ms. Lambert discovered the battle would intensify—she would eventually lose the fight.
“But did she lose?” asks Ms. King. “A message of hope resonates from her writing. She is an inspirational fighter. She may have lost her battle, but her legacy continues to grow through her words. The war isn’t over!” King credits her “stellar support group” of actors, writers, solo performers and other theatre professionals surrounding her. “You don’t do solo alone!” She declares. Many of these people came to her aid in the form of coaching, promoting, advising, and she even found a corporate sponsor: Izze Grapefruit Soda. “They’ve been incredibly supportive and sweet. And I love that soda!”
The show is helmed by Gambacorta, who received her own raves for a delicate and graceful director’s hand. Denton continues on to compliment not only Cheryl King’s performance and production of GRAPEFRUIT, he raves about her choices in show selection at her theatre, “some of the best New York has to offer.” King is happy to confirm, “I’ve seen two major award nominations for my performers (both Drama Desk nominees), and I’m confident there will be more to come.”
Not only an actress, producer and manager, King is an accomplished director. She revisits that role this month as one of Stage Left Studio’s former award-nominees returns for special performances December 17 and 18, Southern Gothic Novel. And she continues to trumpet the work of shows currently enjoying critical-acclaim at her space: Careful, the Sharks Will Eat You, Fearless Moral Inventory: 12-Step Walk Up, 2-man comedy Bait ‘n Swish, and 180 Days, which she also directed.
King wanted to flesh out her character work beyond simple shifts in accent, or obvious physical characteristics. “Acting coaches aren’t afraid of getting an acting coach for themselves. Frank Blocker is an amazing character-acting coach. “ Blocker, currently starring in Fearless Moral Inventory at the Studio, is equally complimentary: “I wanted to help her delve into deeper resources for each character, give her characters full and very specific intentions. I appreciate her accolades, but Cheryl did the work. Her character portrays are layered, specific and nuanced.”
GRAPEFRUIT’s benefit performance for Gilda’s Club was possible due to cast and crew donating their time, and the many donations of theatres, artists, and businesses. Monika Caha Selections donated the wine while Izze again provided Grapefruit sodas. Raffle items included Nuyorican Poet's Café tickets, Forbidden Kiss: The Erotica Series tickets, NYSee sightseeing tour passes, homemade desserts by Marisa Bramwell and Dolores Corwin, a public speaking class with Taren Sterry, and voiceover coaching sessions with Gaby Gold.