The musical numbers feature subtle shifts in the lighting of Toni Sterling, one of several members of an all-female design team that also includes Mejah Balams (set), Fontella A. Boone (costumes), Mikaela Fraser (sound), Crystal Power (projections), Fredrieka Lloyd (props) and Pearl Savannah Johnson (wigs).
Director Frye keeps “Marie and Rosetta” moving at a smooth and steady pace as the finish-line approaches — when, in its last 10-odd minutes, the show suddenly crashes and burns upon impact with a dramaturgical brick wall, in the form of a ludicrous plot twist perpetrated by playwright Brant. Not even Frye’s well-established directorial skills or the sheer stage presence of Fanae and Ellis can rectify it.
Although the pretentious, fatally flawed gimmick might deserve to be spoiled right here and now, suffice it to say that it removes the audience from the intimacy of this one night of rehearsal between the two characters, in the misconceived interest of imposing on us cursory factoids about how their future lives unfolded. It isn’t that we don’t care whether Tharpe was originally buried in an unmarked grave, or if Knight suffered a devastating family tragedy, but it distracts from the rest of the show rather than enhancing it in any significant way.
Rosetta instills in Marie the value of “owning up” to one’s gifts and appreciating their worth, a message Brant himself ultimately betrays. It’s their music that simultaneously grounds and uplifts “Marie and Rosetta,” not his outlandish narrative schemes.
“Marie and Rosetta”
Through Dec. 30. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 11 a.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays (Dec. 21 and 28); 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 26). $30-$45. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 470-639-8241. www.truecolorstheatre.org.
Bottom line: An absolute joy, until it isn’t.