Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Kentucky Cycle"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark

"The Kentucky Cycle"

by Robert Schenkkan
Produced by Zeitgeist Stage & Way Theatre Artists
Direction & Scenic Design by David J. Miller
Assistant Director & Dramaturg Julie Levene

Lighting Design by Chris Fournier
Costume Design by Rrav Menon-Johannsen
Assistant Costume Designer Pat Moore
Sound Design by Walter Eduarde
Props by Christian Kiley & Lori Lapomardo
Musical Director Melissa Carubia
Fight Director Meron Langsner
Fight Captains Brett Marks, Mia Van de Water
Dialect Coach Laura Hitt
Makeup & Hair Design by Judith Leonardo
Production Graphics by Greg Maraio
Wardrobe Mistress Jenn Martinez
Assistant Stage Managers Emily Hart, Marli Mesibov
Production Stage Manager Deirdre Benson

Maureen Adduci

Mother Jones, Margaret Rowen,Ensemble

Melissa Baroni

Mare Rowen, Julia Anne Talbert, Ensemble

Peter Brown

Ezekiel Rowen, Joshua Rowen, Ensemble

Bill Bruce

Cassius Biggs, Franklin Biggs, Ensemble

Michael Steven Costello

MIchael Rowen. J T Wells, Ensemble

Maureen Adduci

Mother Jones, Margaret Rowen, Ensemble

Emma Goodman

Lucy, Musician, Ensemble

Terrence P. Haddad

Carl Dawkins, Scotty Rowen, Ensemble

Jordan Harrison

Ezekiel Rowen, Tommy Jackson, Ensemble

Amanda Good Hennessey

Joleen Rowen, Lallie Rowen, Ensemble

Ashley Kelly

Rebecca Talbert, Rose Ann Talbert, Ensemble

Curt Klump

Judge Goddard, Tommy Jackson, Ensemble

Greg Maraio

Jeremiah Talbert, Abe Steinman, Ensemble

Brett Marks

Jed Rowen, Chuck, Ensemble

Michael O'Halloran

Earl Tod, James Talbert Winston, Ensemble

Jonathan Orsini

Patrick Rowen, Zach Rowen, Ensemble

Jeffrey B. Phillips

Joe Talbert, Andrew Winston, Ensemble

Christine Power

Mary Anne Rowen, Ensemble

Brian Quint

Deputy Grey, Richard Talbert, Ensemble

Matthew Scott Robinson

Joshua Rowen, Ensemble

Jacob Risenbaum

Randall Talbert, Ensemble

Cheryl Singleton

Sureta Biggs, Lana Toller, Ensemble

Marlon Smith-Jones

Taskwan, Jessie Biggs, Ensemble

Mia Van de Water

Morning Star, Ensemble

There are ceramic goodies formed and painted and glazed so skillfully that even after they crack against the teeth they still look soft and sweet and succulent. "The Kentucky Cycle" is just such a fulfilling fruit: It isn't history nor reality --- it is compelling drama; it is truth. It is two separate plays about the same patch of American ground and the many people who lived on it and struggled for it in different ways.

It was originally forest turned farming land up to The War Between The States (Part One), but coal country afterward (Part Two). Two families fought each other over it for two hundred years, each insisting their ancestor settlers --- little more than ruthless animals who killed and raped and cheated the indians who lived there originally, and each other --- each was the sole owner, once the old-growth forests (and the indians) were clear-cut and plowed. The weapons, even the use of the land, changed from generation to generation; but the saga of the Rowens and the Talbert/Winstons flows like a constant yet ever-changing river of hatred and greed through "The Kentucky Cycle" and, though you can experience one or the other part alone and be well satisfied, it is much more satisfying to see both.

In fact, it took two companies working at the BCA to make this epic into reality. David J. Miller of Zeitgeist Stage Company directed, and again designed a set with audience on two sides that makes the flexible Black Box Theatre both fluid and intimate. Julie Levene of Way Theater Artists researched all the details as dramaturg and assistant director. And with 23 actors, all but five of them playing two speaking roles and all of them in and out of two hundred years' worth of Prav Menon-Johannsen's costumes as "Ensemble", even Production Stage Manager Deirdre Benson needed two assistants (Emily Hart and Marli Mesibov) to keep this river running smoothly and swiftly to its two conclusions.

The nine "plays" that make up the two-part whole are actually one-act plays succeeding one another over time --- so in some cases two or three different actors get to play the same person as child, as grown-up and as oldster. And the sleights and sins of child and parent fuel the hatreds and jealousies that erupt later on. Thus it is logical to find, for instance, tall and commanding Peter Brown playing a patriarch, then later playing his equally authoritarian descendent.

In Part Two the consistent conflict is between owners and miners over unions and safety and underground disasters. The two sides mirror the battles over land ownership in Part One, and old names crop up; however, both sides dig into their positions because for generations they have worked coal-mines in one or another way, taking pride in the dangerous work --- and neither can change --- though both must change. The Kentucky of Part Two is completely different from that in Part One --- and yet exactly the same: passionate people fight, ruthlessly, for what they know should be theirs, and their children's. La plus change...

Nothing I have seen or read about "The Kentucky Cycle" does the show justice. Both beautifully crafted, compellingly acted parts must be seen to be understood. It would be a regretted mistake to miss the experience.

( a k a larry stark)

"The Kentucky Cycle" IN REP (6 October - 17 November)
"The Kentucky Cycle Part I" (Thursdays at 7:30 PM; Saturdays & Sundays at 2 PM)
"The Kentucky Cycle Part II" (Fridays at 7:30 PM; Saturdays & Sundays at 7:30 PM)
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617) 482-3279

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