“Throw Me Up On The Burnpile” at The Key West Theater

“Mesmerizing” aptly describes the new play “Throw Me Up on The Burnpile,” at The Key West Theater until Jan 14. Audiences are captivated for quite a few reasons. It could be the quirky story of a fourth-grade girl describing her rather odd family life on the Florida panhandle or the fact it is a 90-minute one-woman show performed by actress Dakota Mackey-McGee .

The story is one of those Southern treats in the same vein as “To Kill a Mockingbird” or a  William Faulkner novel. Written by Southern playwright Lucy Alibar, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” it is filled with misfits like a lecherous goat, a brother who carries an egg and Pentecostals, but also with heartfelt stories about her idealist Daddy, a pro bono lawyer for death row murderers.

These are Alibar’s own stories of when she was 9 and took on being her Daddy’s secretary – he called her “Boss.” It’s a narration of coming of age in Grady County, surrounded by mean school teachers, strange friends, facing issues of racism and class, all the while living in her Daddy’s burnpile, a physical metaphor for the history and baggage a child faces. As the father says of the burnpile, “Everything we look at throughout the day is passed from something else.”  There are laugh-out-loud moments and genuine thoughtful ones throughout the play, and in all, making it as entertaining as a Southern family barbecue.

Dakota Mackey-McGee’s presentation is flawless. A native of Indiana, McGee had to learn a mixture of mountain and Southern dialect to portray the panhandle accent. When contacted by Juliet Gray, of the Key West Theater, with whom she had worked in performing arts projects and Broadway theater, to do a one-woman show, McGee saw the chance as a “growing opportunity.” Only 27, McGee had an impressive resume filled with leading roles and several Shakespeare plays, but never a one woman show.

McGee responded to the script immediately. “Children don’t yet know how to monitor themselves,” she said. “This 9-year-old girl lived in the most unsheltered world and the way she makes sense of it, it is beautiful.” So is McGee’s performance reeling off 96 uninterrupted pages of script. McGee tackles the work with fearlessness and a heartfelt connection to little Lucy, making the play thoroughly entertaining.

Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up by Lucy Alibar

The Key West Theater through Jan 14

The play connected me more to this beautiful, merciful world and made me more optimistic.” –Dakota Mackey-McGee, lead actress of “Throw Me Up On The Burnpile”

 

 

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