It’s a Wednesday night in late August in Charleston. It’s muggy, it’s getting late, and the mosquitos have resurfaced with a new thirst for blood. All anyone wants to do is close the blinds and call it a night. The cast of Pillow Talk 2: Secrets & Revenge, is not full of a bunch of “anyone”s, though. No, this group of amateur performers comes to life after 7:30 p.m. They shed their day-job clothes, affix wigs, pick up props, close their eyes, and get into character. This is homegrown theater at its best.

“Secrets … Karma … And Revenge!! What do they all mean?” A man (played by Meko Noir) clothed in a long black robe, stalks the front of the stage, pausing for dramatic effect. He has a confident, deep voice, and he smirks when he needs to. “Although I am dead, my spirit is yet alive therefore my revenge will be sweet but venomous to those who set forth the plan for my demise.”

The plot of Pillow Talk 2: Secrets & Revenge can be a little tough to follow. It is a sequel after all, so prior experience with the production helps, but is not necessary. Personally, I’d tell you not to worry too much about the plot — it’s the characters that make this show. Timberly Simmons, who plays Melody Capers, shines, both in her singing— her voice is stunning — and her acting, which has her fluctuating from shaken and mentally unstable to sultry and conniving. Head to Sottile to see Simmons’ peformance, if nothing else.

Pillow Talk 2 is the co-creation of Courtnay Coan (a.k.a. Courtnay The Poet) and Rukaiyah Williams, who wrote the script. “I shared with my mother this opportunity [to write Pillow Talk] and she shared with me how detrimental pillow talking can be and she also told me how a friend nearly committed suicide because their confidential information was leaked via pillow talking,” says Williams. “That story inspired me to write Pillow Talk 1 as a murder mystery and the same day I began writing Scene 1, ‘It’s a Gloomy Day’ is the same day my mother passed away. From then I was determined to continue writing this storyline because I felt her inspiration should be heard.”

Charlton Dews co-directs Pillow Talk, passionately nodding along with the actors as they rehearse; he is the conductor of this orchestra. Dews is a locally based actor, singer, model, visual artist, and director, who earned his double major in theater arts and political science at UNC Charlotte. “Charlton and I met when I was working on the stage play, Temptations 2: Love & War. Originally I wanted to cast him for a cameo role, but after speaking with him and finding his extenstive background in theater and arts, I asked him to join me on Pillow Talk,” says Williams.

All of the actors and members of the show’s production staff have day jobs — they step into their stage roles free of charge, again, highlighting the delightful utilitarianism of homegrown theater. Williams says that she normally recruits actors through Facebook and the organization The Southern Casting Call.

In addition to Simmons’ outstanding performance as Melody Capers, several other Pillow Talk standouts include Dana Samuel, who plays Grandma Glo, and Dorsey Montgomery, who plays John John. This pair brings light-hearted scenes to the otherwise wholly dramatic show; I laughed out loud during the rehearsal. Their humor, while, admittedly, a bit slapstick, solidly subverts the heaviness of the goings-on around them. It’s a great balance.

With 17 performers, Pillow Talk 2 is brimming with the energy only a large cast can bring to a complex, dramatic storyline. Rukaiyah says that she’s inspired by TV shows like Empire, Power, and Scandal — modern day soap operas with powerful characters and edge-of-your-seat twists and turns.

Will you have fun at Pillow Talk 2: Secrets & Revenge? Absolutely. Will it change your life? You never know. One thing is certain, though — local theater, rehearsed late at night in a church’s recreation room, is alive and well. And for that, we should all be grateful.

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