A journey of an oppressed young wife’s liberation and self-discovery begins with a job at a nail salon in Carpenter Square Theatre’s latest live production.
Out of Sterno presents the story of Dotty, played by A’Mari Jo Rocheleau, who transforms from an innocent spouse to an independent and adventurous woman.
Married since she was 16 to a deceitful, sleazy husband, Dotty encounters an array of zany people who lead her on a personal odyssey after she finally leaves the solitude of her apartment in the fictitious city of Sterno.
Played by Dalton Thomas, Hamel is Dotty’s controlling husband by day and a philandering playboy by night. She doesn’t realize the truth about his infidelity until after she becomes connected to Zena (Christine Lanning), a sassy nail tech who is also Hamel’s mistress.
“Dotty is like a Disney princess who became stuck in the wrong fairy tale, but is completely oblivious about it,” Rocheleau said.
Once Dotty becomes self-aware, however, she makes a drastic change.
And that’s where Zena and eight male and female roles — all portrayed by C.W. Bardsher — come into play.
“I knew that with the larger-than-life style of the play, the most important thing was for me to fully commit to what Dotty believes is the truth in each moment,” Rocheleau said.
But an audience’s acceptance of Dotty’s self-discovery hinges on all the show’s elements working in sync.
“I think Dotty only knows her world inside her apartment, and that is everything to her,” said director Terry Veal. “As she ventures out the front door — her rabbit hole — she begins a journey of various experiences, which changes her life.”
For Sterno, the costuming by Rhonda Clark not only had to accommodate quick changes for an actor playing eight gender-bending roles, but also reveal Dotty’s stylistic transformations after escaping her apartment and marriage.
“There isn’t time for subtlety,” Clark said. “The script is not meant to be produced with a subtle set or costumes.”
She worked with magenta, turquoise, red and green mixed with neutrals and a lot of animal prints to dress the characters.
“There is somewhat of a Pee-wee’s Playhouse feel to the set — lots of bright colors and retro furniture pieces,” Clark said.
Sterno, she added, incorporates a universal, coming-of-age theme with the unique theatricality of its production and ostentatious characters.