The Reginald D. Haney that takes the stage in "Crumbs From the Table of Joy" will be unlike any audiences have seen so far.
The third-year graduate student in Minnesota State University's Department of Theatre and Dance was scheming and neurotic in the farcical comedy "Imaginary Invalid." He was materialistic and recalcitrant as the rent-gouging landlord Benjamin Coffin III in "Rent" and, during the most recent Highland Summer Theatre series, he played the role of King Arthur in the hilariously irreverent "Spamalot."
But Haney said the next production in MSU's mainstage season will push his acting skills into new territory.
"This is a totally different style," he said.
With MSU graduate and founder of Penumbra Theatre Lou Bellamy returning as guest director, perhaps it comes as no surprise that "Crumbs From the Table of Joy" represents a stylistic contrast to other Mainstage productions.
Whereas MSU excels in musical theatre — almost always anchoring its Mainstage season around large and flamboyant productions that have made MSU's among the most profitable and successful collegiate departments in the country — Bellamy's Penumbra Theatre works almost exclusively in the realms of social justice and African -American theater. As such, Lynn Nottage's exploration of sex, religion, politics and race in 1950s America is a text-driven work that demands careful attention from both cast and audience.
For Haney's part, the actor said Bellamy has been working in rehearsals to eliminate big, emotive movements from actors, preferring instead a more understated style that does not call attention to itself as acting.
"(Bellamy is) trying to create a sort of intimacy between the actors and the audience," Haney said. "He doesn't want the actors to be on acting on stage."
Nottage's narrative centers around the course of events that follow after the meek and conservative Godfrey Crumb (played by Haney) moves his daughters from Florida to Brooklyn after the death of his wife. As Godfrey fills his emotional void with puritanical religious beliefs, his free-loving, politically agitating, communist sister-in-law arrives to help raise his girls. The resulting tension forces daughters Ernestine and Ermina to choose their own course through the social and political upheaval of the era.