Omaha’s Marie Amthor has woven together a fine fabric of women coming together to give and get comfort, a sisterhood of sorrow and shame. They have AIDS. You don’t often hear about such women. But Amthor, director Elizabeth Thompson and an excellent cast make them alive at Shelterbelt Theatre in The Other Sewing Circle.
The device seems simple enough. Five such woman create quilts outisde and inside their group, as if following in the pattern set by AIDS and LGBT activist Cleve Jones in 1985. However, these are not commemorative weavings; they are basically what keeps their hands, fingers and minds together on common ground. Amthor has them tell their stories to a sixth newcomer who then seems to merge with them. They console, support, reveal and bond. Real, remarkable quilts also appear.
In one room, seated on or standing near six chairs, intense moments emerge, as do new revelations and new insights, amid sometimes wry and funny comments. The characters represent many ways of acquiring AIDS with each woman having her own special quality. These people do not seem to be acting; they come across subtly real rather than showy. Credit Thompson for eliciting that. The cast: Pamela Chase, Emily Dorsett, Corie Grant-Lenna, Stephanie Kidd, Therese Renneis, Barb Ross.
In the final moments something compellingly emotional occurs, as if beauty lives within that space. Call it a feeling that goes beyond words, beyond explanation. At the heart if it, Amthor reminds us to grab hold of whatever life we have and to draw our loved ones close and clearly into that truth. Like a comforting quilt, such tender warmth reaches out beyond the walls.
The Other Sewing Circle continues through February 15. Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Omaha. Thurs-Sat: 8 p.m. Sun: 2 p.m. Tickets: $10-15. www.shelterbelt.org