Columnist and radio personality Tom Morgan stepped out of his financial area of expertise Saturday evening to introduce an audience at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown to a colorful parade of characters from his own hometown.
His performance was called "More Tales from the Empire Hotel," and it was a fundraiser for the theater company.
About a year ago, Morgan first introduced Jamestown audiences to the people he knew in a small town in central New York State, 40 years ago. His parents owned a small hotel, in a town of just over 300 people. He was just starting off in life, when he learned that his father had gambled away all of his money, then had made a number of large loans and gambled that money away, as well. Finally, he had committed suicide, leaving his wife, Morgan's mother, suffering in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
The tales he tells in his one-man performance are of the people who came into the hotel's tap room and restaurant, while he did everything he could think of to preserve his mother's care. The basic facts are the same as last year's production, but these are different stories and nearly all are different characters.
Some of the stories are quite funny. Others are touching or sad. All are perfectly believable, and connect easily with our own understandings of the world.
Morgan is an expressive and clear-spoken narrator. He plays many characters and keeps clear in our minds, which is which, adopting just enough of a different voice or a different way of walking to identify the character, without over doing the mummery.
The first act of the performance went on a bit long. Before he began each story, Morgan would make a sound effect, or say a word or two to anchor the new character in our memories, and with each new story, he recounted all the previous sounds before he would introduce the new one. Also, after each story, there would be a complete blackout of the stage lights, until it began to seem as though the sound effects and the blackouts would go on endlessly.
The second act had more energy, the blackouts became no more than dips of the lights, and the resolution of the stories from Act I were much more enjoyable.
The performance is a pleasant two hours. It will be repeated this afternoon at 2 p.m., so it will be possible to enjoy the tales and to support the community theater, all at the same time.