Conversations on a Dirt Road | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Conversations on a Dirt Road

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CONVERSATIONS ON A DIRT ROAD, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Samm-Art Williams's play certainly looks like it's got a plot. There are conflicts, complications, even a twist to this story about two brothers who feud over what to do with their dead father's farm and general store. What's more, it's easy to feel for Joe, the eldest. Having worn himself out working on daddy's property, Joe wants to seize the chance to sell it at a lavish price so that he can get a taste of the good life and--most important--secure the affections of sexy, materialistic Edna. But an array of forces stands--sometimes comically, sometimes nefariously--in his way.

As it turns out, though, what looks like a plot is actually just a premise. A writer and producer for the sitcoms Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Williams slaps a perfunctory, TV-style hugs-all-around ending on Joe's story when it deserves something much richer. Joe, we discover too late, is nothing more than an excuse to get at Williams's real subject: tall-tale telling in the rural south. This script is packed with backwoods whoppers about genius mules and cunning philanderers.

Not that the whoppers aren't worth hearing. And the cast puts them over nicely despite some rookie lapses by director Ron O.J. Parson. I had a good time. But I also felt bad about the tale that got away. The one about Joe.

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