Pure Schmint Players

Pure Schmint Vibram Soul Reviews

Graphic from Star Root Pure Schmint Players ad, Star Root August 1979 (Source: Humboldt Area Peoples Archive, Scott Holmquist Collection)

Vibram Soul, a Review
(from a typed draft in the Joani Rose Collection at the Humboldt Area Peoples Archive. Author recalls it was published but cannot remember where.)
By David Simpson

Anyone with half an eye for it knows by now that theatre is alive and thriving in Humboldt County. It is hard to turn around without discovering another company of players sprung out of the sawdust, as it were, of a region more noted for the production of board feet than of the art and spectacle of theater.

It may be the lack of pretense in this sparsely settled region that allows many who might otherwise stay in the wings of the breadth and freedom to perform. Or it may be that frontier quality of attaining and developing many kinds of skills that make actors and actresses of homesteaders, timber workers, fishermen and merchants. Whatever the case, there are at least eight companies of performers in Humboldt County doing excellent and often quite sophisticated theatre.

What is special, then, about the accomplishment of the Pure Schmint Players of Garberville in their latest production, VIBRAM SOUL, is not that they have created a sweet and exciting piece of theatre but that they have done it about us, a part of us anyway, about that particular breed of individualists and communards who so colorfully, even religiously inhabit the hills in the south part of the county. VIBRAM SOUL is a musical tragi-comedy, written by the company, that dares as theatre rarely does, to take on the real life of its participants. The result is sheer fun.

Sandwiched between rather spectacular sound and scenic effects that open and close the play are a couple hours of bawdy, barbed fun whose subject matter might best be described as mating rituals in the hills of Southern Humboldt. That the rituals are not always easy or successful is exactly the point of both the humor and the heartache of the play and the reason why the dominant strain of the music is blues.

The participants in these rituals are three couples, or rather, six people struggling to become three couples, and one child. It seems to have been the intention of the company to make one couple, Jack and Jill, no less, the center around which the rest turns. Indeed, the other four characters are more stereotypic than the fully drawn protagonists, but they are such well done and terribly familiar stereotypes as to almost overshadow everything else, Jack and Jill included. There is Spring, played to wide-eyed perfection by Nonny Shooting Star, who as a long-time celibate, guru-worshipping, vegetarian spiritual seeker, drives the desperately frustrated shlemiel, Larry, played with antic gusto and a lot of New York shtick by Barry Appaloosa, to a point of screaming sexual distraction. Spring’ song, “Seeker of the Light Blues” is like no other blues.

Balanced against this hilarious and hopeless non-affair are Loretta and George, played by Julia Suzanne and Autumn Wind, two perfectly Humboldt County types: Loretta, the backwoods soulful sexpot with knee-high leather hoots, tight, tight Levis, a knife and scabbard half the length of her leg, and an insatiable thirst for a good time; George, the funky, nasty, rippin’-off mostly always loaded hillbilly hippy. Loretta’s song, “I Like “Em All”, may be the show’s funniest and is certainly the sexiest. George’s song, “Funky Country Boy” should be playing on local radio stations.

It is against this backdrop of finely drawn and funny caricatures that Jack and Jill must play out the serious heart of the play, an impossible task, really, which is why the comic element is never subordinate. Alfredo Bottecelli’s Jack is done competently, with a combination of boyish earnestness and subtle strength. Joni Rose’s Jill is lovely, and soulful almost to a fault as her breathiness sometimes obscures the words of her songs.

Their story, the struggle of a woman to drag her man onto a plane of maturity and real companionship that is his as well as her true fulfillment, is deeply familiar. Jack’s resistance is both comprehensible and culpable. His recognition comes in a surprising, even spectacular conclusion, heightened by the ravelling(sic) together of threads of music, dance, and stage effects that have interspersed the earlier action. For this, one must see the play, scheduled to be performed next at the Pacific Arts Center (0ld Creamery Building), on November 16th and 17th at 8:00 P.M. The company will also perform on November 23rd and 24th at the Mendocino Art Center, in Mendocino. The music of Solomon Mogerman and band and the songs by Mogerman and the cast are worth the price of admission alone. Together with the hilarity, good spirit, and the magic, VIBRAM SOUL is a moment where theatre’s capacity to unite us, one to another and to ourselves, is happily realized. We must hope that the Pure Schmint Players continue to do this regional kind of theatre, by and for Humboldters. Don’t miss this one.

“Vibram Soul” (Star Root, 5 October 1979)
By Mary Anderperson [Anderson] 

If today is Friday and you’re just reading this, you’re down to your last two chances to catch Pure Schmint Player’s production of “Vibram Soul. If it’s Tuesday and you’re reading this, I’m afraid you’ve already blown it and you missed a really great show. The musicians were splendid. The actors were splendid. Even the audience was splendid. Taken as a whole, the production has an extraordinary amount of vitality to it.

The Players have put together a play about us and what we’re doing right now. It all happens in two acts, with singing and dancing. Act I is the better half of the show. The situations and the dialogue were so real, I half expected Ralph Edwards to pop out and announce, “This is your life, Southern Humboldt.” Laughs like that could only be good for you.

Act II, while still good, was less satisfactory. The fault wasn’t with the performers but rather, I think, with the play itself. There was no satisfactory dramatic resolution of the questions raised by Act. I

It’s perhaps time for Pure Schmint to add a writer to their group who could present them with a plot line that would add continuity to a production. That seems to work well for Dell ‘Arte.

In any case, that’s a minor flaw to an otherwise perfect evening of entertainment Vibram Soul is an exciting and innovative effort, delightful on the whole and more than well worth seeing.