Congregation member Ivy (Cynthia Bryant) and janitor Clayborn (Robert McCollum), stuck in past miseries, are as broken and empty as the soon-to-be abandoned African-American inner-city Detroit church in which they meet in the Group Repertory Theatre production of Stories About the Old Days. Can each find salvation by opening up to each other and revealing their haunting secrets?
Director William Arrigon draws finely timed performances from his actors, who perfectly throw out one zinger after another as each seeks to top the other. They maintain high energy, even in the quiet checkers scene and through a few small flubs.
Writer Bill Harris’ work appears a little dated, and too long for the slight subject matter, but McCollum and Bryant bring it to life in the second half as they grow more vulnerable and attracted to each other.
McCollum brings some nice soul to the role of Clayborn, former blues singer and now dejected janitor. He combines colorful charm with prickly grumpiness in the role of the isolated man. Bryant does what she can with the underwritten part of Ivy, a smug, arrogant woman whose scenes are too one-note. Tough and judgmental all the way through, the character finally reveals some touching vulnerability near the end.
The crew adds a warm, nostalgic touch to the production. Laurie Morgan’s costumes show the characters growing in confidence and desire.
Stories About the Old Days reveals how despair from the past can be alleviated through emotional connection and honesty.
Stories About the Old Days plays Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Oct. 27 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets cost $15. For reservations and information, call (818) 763-5990, or purchase tickets at thegrouprep.com.