The Legend of White Woman Creek (Venue 3, Walterdale Theatre)
By Alan Kellogg
Fringe favourites New York’s The Coldharts – Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan – return to Edmonton reprising this song cycle that has played here twice before. Clever and accomplished though they certainly are, they might consider putting this one on the shelf of Gothic American preserves for a time, at least here. And, it must be said, in spite of the fact that the cautionary tale couldn’t be more timely and resonating for Western Canadians. And this comes from a sincere admirer, who just bought the CD.
Things begin with an academic specializing in matters paranormal explaining that, after lighting candles in a circle, she will summon the spirit of Anna Morgan Faber.
Anna appears in a 19th century period frock wielding an acoustic six-string and proceeds to sing her tragic story. It begins in what is now West Virginia and travels west to Kansas and eventually back home. If you’ve never seen the Coldharts, by all means give this a shot, because they always provide something serious to admire. I’ll leave Anna’s ghost to tell you about her sad journey.
Hartman is a wonderful singer and competent finger-picker, and the storytelling here is crisp and understandable throughout, no simple task. The tale itself is also worthwhile, especially for white folks, grim as it is. I’d suggest a clown show (maybe not) or a visit to the beer tent for a bracer or two afterwards.
But many of the songs are in the same key and come off oddly repetitive, not to mention unrelentingly dirge-like. And the cumulative effect of all this somehow lessens the impact of the production. The Coldharts are always welcome here, but they might consider pulling something new out of their (period) valise next year. That said, the packed house loved it, and you may too.