Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ruby Sunrise

Play #15: The Ruby Sunrise by Rinne Groff

The Ruby Sunrise tells two stories. The first part is the story of an Indiana farm girl in 1927 named Ruby. Ruby has a vision: she wants to figure out a way to beam images into people's homes like they do with radio waves. She starts working on her prototype in the barn of her aunt's farm, as she has recently been orphaned. (It is later discovered that though her mother did die a long time ago, her drunken father is still very much alive and looking for her. She had run away after he destroyed her last lab.) Her aunt isn't all that happy to see her, but she eventually lets her stay. While there, Ruby meets her aunt Lois's boarder, a college boy named Henry, who becomes enamored of Lucy and does everything he can to help her in her endeavor to invent the television. Technology ends up moving too fast for her, however, and when she hears about the successes being made in the big city with this technology, she gets frantic and accidentally electrocutes herself - at which point we find out that she is pregnant with Henry's child.

In the second part of the play, we meet Lulu, a script girl working at a TV studio in 1952. Lulu meets the writer Tad Rose and starts to tell him the story of her mother - Ruby - and he ends up turning the story into a teleplay. However, as the studio executive (Martin) gets hold of it, more and more changes start to happen. Lulu finally snaps when the woman who should have been playing Ruby (Elizabeth - played by the same actress who played Ruby) is replaced by some busty chorus girl type because Elizabeth has been blacklisted. The story is spiraling out of control, and she feels that her mother is being lost to history all over again. She shouts at all the actors, Tad, and Martin, and gets herself fired. As the actors progress with their rehearsals (Paul and Ethel, the actors, are played by the same actors who played Lois and Henry), they find that the script is falling apart. Tad is getting frustrated and disillusioned. When he meets Elizabeth, the blacklisted actress, she talks wistfully about how much she regrets losing the role in this beautiful teleplay, and she also reprimands him when she finds out how far short the story has fallen from the ideals present in the first draft. The older actress Ethel convinces Lulu to come back to work, and Tad turns over the rewrites to her, telling her to tell the story the right way, to work with him, and to fight the good fight.

The play has a lot to do with idealism. Ruby wants to invent, Henry wants to get married and live a farm life. Lois had been in love with Ruby's father, but lost her dreams when he ran off with her sister. Lulu is the product of a woman who clung to her ideals, but was ultimately destroyed by them (she never did marry Henry, and she destroyed her lab - she ended up drinking herself to death). Tad sort of discovers his ideals as the play goes along. The characters are lovingly drawn, and the idea of holding making your ideals your priorities regardless of the cost - that's a pretty noble thought. I have to admit, I didn't get all worked up and excited about this play, but it is solid and sweet and has some very good scenes for acting students - it's definitely one I'm going to keep around. 

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