Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Our Country's Good"

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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark


"Our Country's Good"

by Timberlake Wertembaker
Directed by Judy Braha
Assistant Director Alex Lippard

Scenic Design by Hea-min Lee
Lighting Design by Mara N. Fishman
Costume Design by Barbara J.Oddo




         Captain Arthur Phillip, RE.................Jeremiah Stich
         John Arscott...............................    "      "
         Major Robie Ross, RM......................Andrew Amondson
         Ketch Freeman.............................   "       "
         Captain David Collins, Rm...................John McGovern
         Robert Sideway..............................  "       "
         Captain Watkin Tench, RM....................Gina Schapiro
         Meg Long....................................  "      "
         Jeremy Campbell, RM.......................Geoffrey Molloy
         Midshipman Harry Brewer, RN...............    "      "
         Reverend Johnson...............................Peter Rush
         John Weisenheimer..............................  "    "
         Lieutenant George Johnston, RM...........Francesca Carlin
         Duckling Smith..........................      "      "
         Lieutenant Will Dawes, RM......................Deb Heinig
         Liz Morden..................................... "     "
         Aboriginal Australian....................Rahsaan K. Janey
         Black Caesar.............................    "   "    "
         2nd Lieutenant Ralph Clark, RM..........Michael McGroarty
         Mary Brenham................................Natalie Moore
    


A glance at this cast-list proved what was not at all obvious on the Huntington Theater stage: that all but two of these student actors played two different roles, with some women doubling as soldiers. Thus, in this play about creating a play, wherein some of the characters get to act parts in Farquhar's "The Recruiting Officer", the playing of roles is the essence of the show.

The play is set in the first years of the Austrailian Penal Colony, when seven years exile at hard labor was a sentence for picking pockets, stealing food a hanging offense, and where the military jailors felt as penned-in and punnished as their charges. In uniform or in chains, everyone in this play is a hopeless, degraded, spiteful prisoner of the worst societal evils of the 1790s.

In costume and in character as performers, however, a grudging sense of personal dignity gives each of these hard cases a glow of cooperative humanity. Their awkward final bow celebrates the triumph of art over adversities.

In order to flit from one persona to another, these student actors reduced each to a few primal gestures and attitudes --- a necessarily surface presentation, rather than a deeply plumbed realization. Perhaps, since half of them are beaten animals, half their vindictive tormenters, anything approaching a more total realization of these characters would have made their transformation, as players, impossible.

Director Judy Braha handed her 12-member cast many difficult transformations, and should be pleased with the results. Her handling of bubbling crowd-scenes full of simultaneous conversations competing for attention was particularly successful.

In an earlier interview, Braha described this play --- an adaptation of Thomas Keneally's sprawling historical novel "The Playmaker" --- as "...about why the National Endowment for The Arts should have its funding-level doubled." She's right about the play, and right about the N.E.A. as well.

Love,
===Anon.


at

BOSTON UNIVERSITY THEATRE
264 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON
till 23 February
1(617)266-0800



THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

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