‘The Passion of Teresa Rae King’ review
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes murder. Triad Stage returns to Hawboro, this time to the wrong side of the tracks. A young woman beleaguered by her husband and terrorized by her mother-in-law finds comfort in the arms of another man. They carry out a plot meant to free Teresa, but the repercussions of their actions haunt them and threaten to drive them to madness. Join Triad Stage for this World Premiere loosely inspired by Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin. For mature audiences.
This play was written and directed by Triad Stage’s own Preston Lane and stars Beth Glover as Mamie King, Stanton Nash as Carter King, Patrick Ball as Levon Lankford, Sarah Hankins as Detective Suzanne Oliver, Madeline Fox as Teresa Rae King, Lorin Kaplan and Melat Ayalew listed as ensemble cast members. I went to see the play on May 6 at the Pyrle Theater in downtown Greensboro. Much like Triad Stage’s production of A Beautiful Star during the holiday season, this play painted with local color. Very unlike A Beautiful Star, it was disturbing and haunting. The stage rarely consisted of any props, except a dinner table with utensils, a screen for a projection of graphics that wrapped around the top of the stage (offering a panoramic view for spectators) and a trap door for “the river” in the most horrifying scene.
The story is narrated by a haunted Detective Suzanne Oliver and recounts the story following the disenchanted protagonist (or is it antagonist?) Teresa Rae King and her family Mamie King (Teresa’s guardian) and Mamie’s son Carter King (Teresa’s husband, who was also raised as her brother…ick!) and of course, Carter’s childhood friend and the story’s antagonist Levon Lankford. The family’s portrayal (even with the quasi-incest) is not one that is unusual in a family living in the seemingly deep South, especially with the representation of Christianity.
Teresa waits hand-and-foot on her misogynistic, annoying and childish husband, while also listening to Mamie ramble on non-stop while she does hair at her home-salon. At first, Teresa doesn’t say much, but rather listens to music on her phone and escapes in her own world. She doesn’t speak at all really until Levon comes back into town and gets a job with Carter. Levon lit a fire in Teresa. He was her passion, and while their “love” (or more accurately, their lust) for one another was forbidden due to Teresa’s vows of “til death do we part,” they find a way.
The consequences of their actions, of course, haunt them until they find another way out. The first part of the play itself was comforting to watch considering my own Southern family’s history, which is far less dramatic, being able to relate made me connect emotionally with the characters.
By the end, I was shocked and quite spooked. Needless to say, I didn’t answer my ringing phone for the rest of the night. I did not imagine that this play would dig that deep and expose the ugly underbelly of human nature. The message of the play is chilling: to what end can intense passion and repression drive humans back to their animal instincts? The answer, in regards to Teresa Rae King: the very bitter end. This Southern noir/thriller is not one to miss at Triad Stage.
Showtimes: May 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m.; May 11, 12 at 8 p.m.; May 13 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; May 15-17 at 7:30 p.m.; May 18, 19 at 8 p.m. and May 20 at 2 p.m.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.