Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hallowed Ground"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey


Haunting Civil War Drama
at Boston Playwrights' Theatre

Laura Harrington's haunting drama "Hallowed Ground" --- produced by Wellesley Summer Theatre in cooperation with Boston Playwrights' Theatre --- is a small story of a Civil War encounter, which carries a large message abut the futility of war.

Playwright Harrington weaves familiar themes into her dreamlike account of death and war --- and not just musical themes, like the exquisitely sorrowful tunes of Henry Clay Work. Her play is part "Gone with The Wind" (like Scarlett O'Hara before her, Lizzy, whose family has been killed, shoots a Yankee intruder), part "Grapes of Wrath" (like Rose of Sharon, the freed slave Micah suckles a dying man to give him strength), even part Bob Dylan ballad (Jack, a dying Union soldier, is "too blind to see...feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door"), etc., etc.

The play is awash in symbolism: the dying soldier says he's "awash in the water" ... the play's title comes from a rebel deserter's mangling of The Lord's Prayer ... a soldier's name is Jubal (short for Jubilation??) which meant emancipation to the slaves and heavenly reward to the general population. Even so, Harrington creates very human characters to carry the load. Under Nora Hussey's inspired direction, the actors soar --- especially Yasmin A. Dixon as that earth mother Micah, the saviour of the piece. Derek Nelson gives a powerful performance as a blind Union soldier who struggles against the weight of a failing body even to move or to speak. Emily Coddington is Lizzy, a hysterical orphaned 13-year-old in Micah's care, and Greg Sharrow gives a quirky, spooky performance as a deserter with a mission, and also as the pillaging Union soldier Lizzy kills at the start of the play.

Ken Loewit's vine-strewn swamp of a set, overgrown with tangled kudzu and blurred in a smoky haze --- which smelled like mildew to the audience (Yuck!) --- gives the play its Southern Gothic feel. After alternating mini-scenes of each couple alone, Harrington's characters come together at play's end, pulling the individual stories together so seamlessly for a touching and remarkably redemptive conclusion you don't see it coming, though in hindsight it is inevitable. Harrington and company have composed an evocative tone poem about life and death.

[ NOTE: Although this has nothing to do with the play, except that they share the same subject matter, I suggest you rent Sergio Leone's "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" for a stunning portrait of the American Civil War --- written by an Italian! ]


"Hallowed Ground" (till 29 January)
BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE
949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON
1(781)283-2029

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Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Golf with Alan Shepard"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey


Miniature Golf Comedy

The New Repertory Theatre in Newton Highlands begins its 15th season with Carter W. Lewis' comedy of sporting manners "Golf with Alan Shepard". Lewis sets an elderly foursome loose on the links situation-comedy style, then loops the loop into metaphysical optimism, like making miniature golf a prelude to the PGA.

At times the play is sweet. At times it's funny. At times it's annoying --- and long, like golf --- but it does become fascinating at the very end.

Rick Lombardo directs for the broad laughs --- where less guffaws might have made the show charming. Michael Bradshaw is over the top as a grousing, tennis-hating curmudgeon. Had he been less acerbic, we might have cared about the story beneath his defensiveness. Ed Sorrell is the sad sack whose catharsis involves exorcising the ghost of his dead brother. Jim Bodge is the darling widower who can't face life without his wife. (The playwright's explanation of why this character can't miss the hole every time was completely lost on me.) William Young gets the plum role of a defrocked priest: Lots of meaty material there, and Young makes the most of it, exuding enough "spiritual voltage" to light up a night game. (Maybe they don't have night golf, come to think of it.)

Kristin Loeffler's green grass set looks like a miniature golf course minus the windmills, and her zany costumes --- especially for Bradshaw --- look like miniature golf with the windmills. Daniel Meeker's lighing is lush as the turf, and Nicole Miller's props (socks for the clubs, toiwels for thenguys) are as goofy as the game.


"Golf with Alan Shepard" (till 17 October)
THE NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS
1(617)332-1646


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