Gifted playwright, talented actor brings Miss Caledonia to life
Melody A. Johnson is an entertaining actor with a wide range of talent.
The standing ovation she received Thursday for portraying her mother, Peggy Ann Douglas, in Miss Caledonia — a play she wrote — was well deserved.
The play is based on Douglas’s memories about growing up on a family farm in 1955,
reminiscences she passed on to Johnson.
At the time, her mother was looking to escape her boring farm life by taking part in a pageant.
With only the bare essentials for a set — a wooden bench and a chair for the fair fiddler — the play relied heavily on Johnson’s acting ability.
Without changing costume, the actor played a multitude of personalities singlehandedly. Wearing only a flannel shirt and jeans, she relied on a myriad of facial and bodily expressions to make her characters’ clothes.
Each had individual attributes and telling traits, so the audience could easily follow — and laugh — along with the simple storyline.
Although Peggy Ann had some trouble transforming herself into a 1955 pageant queen — learning the art of poise and reading up on magnetism — Johnson had no difficulty drawing in her audience.
The athletic and expressive one-person performance was well done, with the actress showing off a range of skills, including many accents, her singing and her baton twirling.
The vivid descriptions of the surrounding countryside and music from Halifax fiddler Mary Fay Coady transformed Neptune’s Scotiabank Studio Theatre into a rural Caledonia farm community.
Hope was the underlying theme of the show, appearing throughout the story in a metaphor made of lilacs from the family farm.
It constantly surfaces as the young girl tries to make a life of her own without forgetting her rural roots and the charm of her small town life.
The comedy was clearly written, offering points of advice along with an assortment of entertaining jokes.
The optimistic story was even inspiring for some audience members. One woman talked of taking up baton twirling, just as Peggy Ann did in the play.
As the story is personal, it leaves one wondering if the enthusiasm shown on stage would have vanished if another actor had portrayed Peggy Ann.
The play runs at Neptune until May 11.