Can anyone really blame Joe Carter?
Sure, he’s 70, but he’s very much alive. And truthfully, he’s bored.
Anyone in his situation would be. He’s a retired widower and his daughter, Carrie, is controlling and overprotective. She isn’t being cruel; she simply wants him to take it easy.
“But Joe’s not ready to give up. He feels that his life is just beginning,” says Ava Brewster-Turner, founder and artistic director of UpStage Theatre and director of James Morehead’s comedy, “Shades of Gray,” which opens Friday, June 27.
Morehead is Brewster-Turner’s former theater professor at Grambling State University. He now lives in Indiana, and his play is the third in UpStage’s 2014 Encore season, as well as its annual summer comedy.
“This play was so popular when we performed it in 2010, that the audience asked us to do it again,” Brewster-Turner says. “That’s how we put together our encore season — we asked our audiences to submit which plays they wanted to see again.”
And they loved the comedy of how Joe Carter set out of find a job, but instead finds love with a younger woman named Katie Brown.
Joe takes a few detours along the way, one leading him to the local strip club, where his artist grandson, Easy, has been hired to paint, well, ladies on its wall.
Easy is excited about this job prospect. And Joe? He doesn’t judge.
“Easy and Joe get along great,” says Trey Sparks, who plays Easy. “Easy makes Joe feel young. He keeps Joe connected with the younger lingo of the time.”
And the time is the 1980s.
“I like being in a story set during that time,” Sparks says. “It was a good time, when people communicated better with each other.”
Sparks is the only returning cast member from the 2010 production, in which he also played Easy.
A lot has changed since then.
“My son was just about to be born at that time,” Sparks says. “He’s 4 now, and I know what it is to be a parent, and I now understand Easy’s parents’ perspective.”
Just as Quinton Williams has a handle on his portrayal of Joe. Williams is 30 years old, and he’s playing a man who is 40 years older.
“Joe reminds me of my uncle,” Williams says. “He’s retired and lives with his daughter, and his daughter won’t let him do anything, either. She wants to keep him safe, so she won’t let him go out and do anything.”
- Joining him on stage as his 16-year-old granddaughter Mae is 14-year-old Naomi Trahan, who will be a sophomore at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in the fall. This is her second role with UpStage.
“I’m having to play a character a couple of years older than myself, so I have to think about acting a little more mature,” Trahan says.
But Mae’s personality comes naturally to Trahan.
- “Naomi is always bubbly,” Brewster-Turner says. “And Mae is bubbly.”
But there’s nothing bubbly about Joe’s daughter. She’s afraid Katie’s interested only in Joe’s money.
“Joe does ask at one point, ‘Is age just a number? What does age have to do with love?’” Brewster-Turner says. “And that’s really what ‘Shades of Gray’ is all about.”
- CAST: Quinton Williams, Joe Carter; Crystal Jefferson, Carrie Johnson; Alexander Scott, Nathaniel Johnson; Will Merrill, Acie Dunn; Trey Sparks, Easy; Naomi Trahan, Mae; Keyaira Augustus, Katie.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Ava Brewster-Turner, director; Brandi Watson, stage manager; David Byrd, technical assistant; Barbara Oliver, costumes; Maddgame Entertainment, publicity.