Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Book of Days"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


"BOOK OF DAYS"

by Lanford Wilson
directed by Spiro Veloudos

Ruth Hoch, bookkeeper for the Dublin Cheese Plant … Stacy Fisher
Len Hoch, manager of the cheese plant; Ruth’s husband … Sam Hurlbut
Boyd Middleton, stage manager from out of town … Steven Barkhimer
Ginger Reed, assistant to Boyd … Jessica Healy
Martha Hoch, Len’s mother; junior college dean and teacher … Beth Gotha
Walt Bates, owner of the cheese plant … Ray McDavitt
Sharon Bates, Walt’s wife … Kippy Goldfarb
James Bates, Walt’s son … Michael Kaye
LouAnn Bates, James’ wife … Lea Contarino
Earl Hill, dairy inspector at the cheese plant … Kevin Steinberg
Reverend Bobby Groves … Doug Bowen-Flynn
Sheriff Conroy Atkins … Floyd Richardson

If the idea of Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN being played out as a murder mystery appeals to you, you might enjoy Lanford Wilson’s BOOK OF DAYS which is receiving its Boston premiere at the Lyric Stage; if not, there is still pleasure to be had in watching its talented ensemble of local actors create their own warm community even though the play’s Bible-Belt town of Dublin, Missouri turns out to be a fallen Eden.

Two threads run through BOOK OF DAYS and come together to form a knot: one is Ruth, a young woman, being cast as the lead in a community-theatre production of Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN; the other is Walt Bates, the head of the town’s cheese factory, being found dead from a gunshot wound after a tornado. Having known and worked for Walt, Ruth suspects foul play and her investigation becomes a Joan-like quest for truth, resulting in her own persecution as more and more cracks appear on Dublin’s cheery, cheesy surface. This modern-day parable about the abuse of power is played out in Mr. Wilder’s presentation style; when it wanders --- and it does, going into two acts --- so may your attention, and Mr. Wilson startles by having JOAN’s director double up as DAYS’ director for no apparent reason than to pay further homage to Mr. Wilder, who stopped his own shows to lecture or tweak; Mr. Wilson, however, confuses in his imitation.

Stacy Fisher is Ruth. Thrice I have seen her as ditzy, birdlike girls --- and she plays them well --- here, Ms. Fisher doesn’t shed a feather yet proves to be a compelling dramatic actress as well. (Go figure.) Mr. Wilson is one of our better Mood Playwrights so it should come as no surprise that the evening’s most memorable moments come when Kippy Goldfarb (Walt’s repressed widow) and Beth Gotha (Ruth’s free-spirited mother-in-law) sit and talk about little things; through them, BOOK OF DAYS becomes focused; human.

Janie E. Howland has designed a lovely, Elizabethan-like setting and Karen Perlow has dipped it in an ironic golden haze. Composer Steven Bergman receives top billing for his few notes of incidental music; whoever created those spectacular tornado cracks and howls deserves at least a program acknowledgment.

"Book of Days" (24 October-22 November)
LYRIC STAGE COMPANY
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 437-7172

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