"She went to college," McCrary said. "I think she is a smart person, but I think she's been somewhat sheltered. She's a little naive. She's been out of work for six months because of the Depression. So she's really reached this point of desperation in trying to find a job to support herself. And I think because she's so desperate and because she's so naive in a way she wants to overlook some of the bad things that are happening in the prison in the interest of keeping her job. ... It's hard for me to really try to understand some of her motivations just because she seems so willing to overlook and think that things will get better.
"She's willing to overlook a lot of things that I would not be able to. It's like, 'Why does she stay? Why doesn't she say something about all of these terrible things that have been happening?' ... The prison administration is corrupt and a lot of the money that is supposed to go toward the prisoners' care is not. So, like the food is not very good and the conditions are not healthy in the most basic ways. So the prisoners decide to go on a hunger strike and everything sort of goes downhill from there."
In addition to McCrary, the play's cast features Will Brooks as Jim Allison, Daniel Rich as Boss Whalen, Kip Henderson as Butch O'Fallon, John Walker as Joe, Roger Ferrier as The Queen, Adam Kelley as Jack Bristol, Payton Wood as Jeremy Trout, Michael Clark as Oliver Armstead, Corinne Scott as Mrs. Bristol, Kara Duke as Goldie, Mike Davis as Schultz, Timothy Claypole as McBurney, Chris McAbee as Guard/Trooper, Robert Trammell as Chaplain and Ron Connell as Reverend Hooker/Trooper.
"The play is about a young woman named Eva Crane who comes to find a job at a prison during the Depression," said McCrary's mother, Leslie, a co-founder of StageWorks. "She meets one of the convicts, a young man named Jim, who has been in prison for nearly half of his life and is considered to be a favorite of the warden and a model prisoner. Jim is not liked by the other prisoners and is in constant danger of being harmed by the others who consider him a stool pigeon. Unknown to the other prisoners, Jim is actually trying to fix the horrible conditions the prisoners have to endure, the worst of which is the food they are forced to eat. Jim is also trying to fight against the tyrant of a warden, Boss Whalen, who not only is Jim's nemesis, but has taken a fancy to Eva as well.
"Jim enlists Eva's help in getting the word out about the poor conditions and in the process, they fall in love. Their relationship is compromised by Boss Whalen and his pursuit of Eva. Many of the prisoners, led by Butch O'Fallon, have been unjustly punished by Mr. Whalen and are ready to take action. In a bold move, the prisoners decide to go on a hunger strike which angers Boss Whalen. He punishes the ring leaders, O'Fallon, Joe, Swifty and Queen by sending them to a boiler room called 'Klondike' where a tragedy occurs. A full-blown prison riot comes about and the balance of power not only shifts, but catches Jim and Eva in the conflict. In the end, we find out exactly what some are willing to do for justice and for love."
While the drama was penned by Williams in 1938, it was not produced for the theater until 1998 in London.
"Almost all of Tennessee Williams' plays are heavy dramas and "Not About Nightingales" is no exception," Leslie McCrary said. "The attraction to this play for me was to see if we could tell a story that was very dark and still make the audience sympathize with the characters.
"This group of actors have tackled these complex characters and are amazing in their ability to bring this story to life. ... Since the play is based on a real event that took place in a Philadelphia prison in 1937, I have found it interesting that even though Williams was a very young man when he first wrote this play, he already possessed the ability to take an event that he found compelling and create a dramatic production from it. Even though this play may not exhibit the polish of later efforts, Williams was able to build a group of unforgettable characters who could be portrayed by actors in an unforgettable manner at the very beginning of his career."
Tickets for "Not About Nightingales" are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Due to adult content and situations, the play is not recommended for younger audiences. For more information, call 770-386-7343.