Last night was a blustery, chilly evening in Austin, but a friend and I happened upon a charming little pub that caught our fancy and warmed our hearts. It is located on the stage of the Bass Concert Hall. How can that be you ask? Well now, there’s a story to be told…
To begin, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, presented by The National Theatre of Scotland, takes place in a pub. Strangely enough, the stage of the Bass had been transformed into just such a place. Furnished with sturdy, wooden tables and chairs and seating theatre-goers in groups of 4 to 8 or so, the stage takes on a friendly, pub-like atmosphere with tables of varying sizes scattered across the room and flanked by a massive bar on the left-side of the stage. You can feel the warmth of the place as it shields you from the bitter cold outside and the talented performers transport you across miles and time.
Prudencia Hart is a somewhat stereotypical, academic whose passion for and devotion to the art of the ballad sets her apart from her esteemed colleagues. After her less than spectacular presentation on the art of the ballad at a conference, Prudencia finds herself stranded in a snowstorm miles from home with Colin, a motorcycle-riding folklorist. As Prudencia struggles through the snow to find her lodging place for the night, the narration includes a superstitious warning: midwinter’s eve is the time when the devil is said to snare an unsuspecting soul as the past and present kiss at midnight. Alas, poor Prudencia. Not one to let her fate get her down, Prudencia does what any good academic would do when confronted by a treasure trove of lost masterpieces of balladry and folklore. She catalogs it. Or at least she spends a good part of eternity doing that. Years fly by, decades fly by, millennia fly by and…well, you wouldn’t want me to ruin the story for you, would you? All I can say is that as you leave the “pub” and return to your car, you may want to take care as it is a moonlight night on… well, you know.
The cast consists of two women and three men, most of whom take on multiple roles and play numerous types of musical instruments, in the telling of the story). Melody Grove is an enormously talented actress whose nuanced performance as Prudencia is riveting, especially in the latter portion of the production. Joining her are Annie Grace, Alasdair MacRae, Paul McCole, and David McKay.
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart runs through February15, 2014 at the Bass Concert Hall. For showtimes and ticket information, go to http://texasperformingarts.org/season/strange-undoing-prudencia-hart-austin