Monday, May 20, 2019

Wayne Harris: "Mother's Milk" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

He isn't strutting around the stage in the same way as when we saw his "May Day Parade" in 2008. But Wayne Harris still can captivate us with stories about his native St. Louis, when Union Boulevard was filled with unforgettable characters.

Surrounded by bible pounders like his mother, his stepfather (Uncle Bill), and the Reverend Pruitt, Junior, it is amazing that Harris escaped that world at all. As he describes it, St. Louis had "midwestern mentality tied up with Southern ignorance." It wasn't for him. Once he figured out how to march away by playing his bugle, Harris rarely went home. But then his mother became ill.

This show, "Mother's Milk," is about those months when Harris, number three of five children, had to come to grips with his mother's breast cancer, illness and eventual death. These moments, when he returns to St.. Louis, are the highlight of the show.

Harris is accompanied by a small combo (Randy Craig on Piano and John McArdle on bass) and for the most part they impart flavor to the story. For us, we felt that the action tended to stop when Harris moved to the mike to sing and it took a few moments for the story to pick up again. We enjoyed the music and we enjoyed the story but they could probably seam together a little more smoothly. Harris's version of "God Bless the Child" was a standout.

We loved it best when Harris brought to life Reverend Pruitt, or his mother, or his crazy sister, or several other characters from his younger days. His voice became stronger, his body took on a different posture and we were happy to go along for the ride.

It's a heartwarming show. You can't help but like Wayne Harris.

RATINGS ☼  ☼  ☼  ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "Wayne Harris: Mother's Milk" Four Stars. We were sorry when it ended and will look forward to his next batch of St. Louis stories.

Wayne Harris: "Mother's Milk"
The Marsh
2120 Addison Street, Berkeley
Fridays and Sundays through May 31
$20-$35 Siding Scale

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