"The Spitfire Grill" Audience Review—Kylie Schultz

Lyric Arts’ 20th season is off to a fabulous start. Following the season premier’s rollicking comedy The Explorers Club, the season’s second show takes a lovely, more subdued tone with The Spitfire Grill.

Set in the fictional small town of Gilead, Wisconsin, this lovely musical follows the  story of released criminal Percy (Katharine Strom) as she attempts to start a new life in the town. In Gilead, Percy finds herself a job at the Spitfire Grill when aging owner Hannah (Martha Wigmore) begrudgingly takes her in. In time, Percy becomes acquainted and assessed by Gilead’s population including Effy (Shana Eisenberg), the nosy mailwoman, Joe (James Ehlenz), the town Sheriff, Caleb (Patrick Jones), Hannah’s controlling and unlikeable nephew, and befriends Caleb’s mousy wife, Shelby (Christy Jones).

The small town of Gilead has been slowly fading, and Percy learns that Hannah has wanted to sell the grill for years, but has been unable to. Percy suggests that Hannah raffle the grill off for $100, and with this, Percy becomes the center of a chain of events that illuminates and changes all in the small, quiet town.

Shoot the Moon! James Ehlenz, Martha Wigmore, & Katharine Strom (left to right) Photo credit: Michael Traynor

Shoot the Moon! James Ehlenz, Martha Wigmore, & Katharine Strom (left to right)
Photo credit: Michael Traynor

Set to a beautiful Americana soundtrack, The Spitfire Grill is soothing and melodic to the ear, but is also evocative. The idyllic town of Gilead both represents the myth of the small town, and the boon of the big city. There are many secrets in the town, longings to leave, unrest as the town slowly fades away, but it also has the bond of community, beauty, and restorative quiet that is longed for by many of the strangers that write in for the raffle of the Spitfire Grill and hope to win it if only to leave the lonely and disconnected cities they live in.

This is also a story of redemption, not only for Percy, who finds a place where she can truly be free of her past and find herself at home, but also for Hannah and Shelby, who face their misgivings and abuses and take charge of their lives. It’s a show about friendship, growth, empowerment, and freedom and Gilead represents all of these things in subtle ways for each character.

Beautifully performed by an extremely talented cast, The Spitfire Grill is another brilliant notch in Lyric Arts’ belt, and is a stunning example of the caliber and mastery of the performances to come in Lyric Arts’ 20th season and beyond.

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

Dig Deeper - How Real is Real?

How do the objects and set onstage help tell a story?  Why might a director and designer choose to use a real tree stump and why might they choose to build one out of carved foam?  How real is real in the upcoming production of The Spitfire Grill at Lyric Arts?

For the last 150 years or so the most common style of Western theater has been realism, a style that seeks to create a more realistic environment onstage.  Actors portray people as they appear in real life - with emotional reactions, everyday language, etc.  This was reflected in set design with the emergence of the unit set, where the entire play takes place in one location and the audience looks in through an imaginary "fourth wall."  Naturalism, an extreme form of realism in which characters were a direct product of their environment, generated sets with as few theatrical illusions as possible - real grass, dirt, flowers, etc used onstage.

The set design (by Gabriel Gomez) for The Spitfire Grill, uses a mixture of these two styles, commonly known as suggestive realism.  In this style, theatrical tools and conventions are used to suggest a setting.  A room might be indicated by only part of a wall, another by only a door, so that multiple locations can live together in the same stage space at the same time.  Lighting and staging primarily let the audience know the location for each scene and invite the audience to use their imagination to complete the image.  Gomez has combined the imaginative and representative qualities of this style with a choice inspired by naturalism - the use of real trees onstage. 

The spitfire grill, color rendering, by gabriel gomez

The spitfire grill, color rendering, by gabriel gomez

Just yesterday the Lyric Arts shop brought in 15 fully-grown, locally purchased cut aspen trees and installed them on the stage.  Check out set designer Gabriel Gomez's color rendering and come and see how this lovely, heartfelt story is brought to life.  See you soon at Lyric Arts!


Dig Deeper - The Healing Power of Beauty

Fall colors on the banks of Mirror Lake, WI

Fall colors on the banks of Mirror Lake, WI

During the opening scene of the upcoming Lyric Arts production of The Spitfire Grill, the local sheriff asks new arrival Percy (a recently released ex-convict) why she's come to the small town of Gilead.  She hesitantly reaches into her pocket and withdraws a carefully folded piece of paper.  It's a picture she cut from an old travel book that was donated to the prison library.  The caption reads "Autumn colors along Copper Creek."  It's beauty has inspired her to find a quiet place to start again.

Looking for a little peace and beauty this fall?  Click the photos to find the best fall colors in our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin (above) and for Minnesota (below).  Enjoy!