note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
BOOK OF DAYS is Lanford Wilson’s update (and meltdown) of Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN. Like Grace Metalius’ PEYTON PLACE, Wilson’s town reeks of corruption, adultery, murder…and well, cheese. (I tried to write my review without any cheese references but the temptation was too strong.)
Wilson sets BOOK OF DAYS in and around a cheese factory not in Wisconsin but in his native Missouri. Who knew Missouri was a hotbed of Kraftiness and cunning. In fact the owner of the plant has been happily selling his bland curds to the Kraft people until a local hero discovers a whey to make gourmet cheese as well as a pile of money.
Just when the Provolone and the plot are about to mature, the cheese hits the fan and the plant’s owner is killed in a suspicious hunting accident (during a tornado which felt like the avalanche in K2 to me). The cheese plot is actually lovely. The murder plot is less successful, because Wilson ties it to G.B. Shaw’s St. Joan and he already has a saint in the cheese guy, sweetly portrayed by Sam Hurlbut. The man is so beatific, he even cooks and cleans so his wife can be free to do community theater!
Stacy Fischer brings a genuine sense of wonder and purpose to the role of St. Joan/ the truth seeking “cheese” wife, although why the bad guys don’t bump her off is a mystery to me. Director Spiro Veloudos’ cast all toil nobly in the service of the bifurcated script, even achieving a light soufflé of emotions in the funnier scenes.
Ray McDavitt brings a powerful presence to the role of the aged cheese patriarch and Kippy Goldfarb dazzles as the aristocratic matriarch (resplendent in Rita Sclavunos’ gorgeous costumes). Kevin Steinberg does menace like no one else in town and Michael Kaye adds charismatic smarminess and bite to the role of the young cheese usurper.
Steve Bergman’s settings for several hymns add weight (not to mention the shivers) to the church scenes where a hypocritical Baptist minister (Doug Bowen-Flynn) holds sway. Wilson’s machinations are at times grating but the actors are what make the play worth watching.