In Rodney, Miss., on the Natchez Trace, Jamie Lockhart leads a double life. By day, he is a respectable gentleman. By night, the Bandit of the Woods.
When Jamie saves the rich Clemment Musgrove, he is promised Clemment's beautiful daughter Rosamund in marriage. Only Rosamund has fallen in love with the Bandit. Furthering complicating the story are an evil stepmother, a vile criminal who carries around his dead brother's head (which talks to him), a cawing raven and a boy named Goat.
"The Robber Bridegroom," to be presented over the next two weekends by the UTC Theatre Department, is based on a novella by Eudora Welty. Pulitzer Prize winner Alfred Uhry ("Driving Miss Daisy") penned the book and lyrics, and Robert Waldman wrote the music, a bluegrass score.
In a news release, director Steve Ray said he finds the exploration of male and female archetypes the most engaging part of the story.
"Welty was interested in portraying strong female sexuality in her work," he said. "She seems to delight in the games that men and women play with each other. This play, while a romping musical, also gets quite dark. Like much of Southern Gothic literature, it's both dark and funny."
Music director Suzanne Carter has pulled together a band of local bluegrass players that includes Brian Blaylock (of The Dismembered Tennesseans), Owen Saunders (who has played on Grammy-winning recordings), Jim Palmer and Gordy Nichols.
"The show is fantastic, but you could just come for the band and not be disappointed," Ray said.
The second weekend coincides with the Conference on Southern Literature.