A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek"

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"The trestle at Pope Lick Creek"

by Naomi Wallace
Directed by Adrienne Moon

Lighting Designed by Daved Evans [DaRRen actually]
Set Design by The Company [Erin Dilley}]BR> Technical Director Justin Peters
Stage Hand Laurel Aylesworth
Publicity Designer Neal Bijlani
House Manager Kristin Spalding
Stage Manager Kara Helgren

Dalton Chance......Justin Dilley
Pace Creagan. .....Lora Uebelhart
Gin Chance........Donna Spurlock
Dray Chance.........Elio Maggini
Chas Weaver........Nathan Lamont

Friday* 1 August, 1750 Hours

A dress rehearsal, some actors know, is their last chance to make mistakes --- like thinking a total blackout is the cue to start the show, when actually it was the techies' last chance to run all the light-cues and make corrections. But, well, last night I made a mistake*, and I'm starting this review two hours before the Turnstyle Theatre Project's production of "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" officially opens at the smaller of The Actors' Workshop's two acting-spaces at 327 Summer Street, across the bridge from South Station. Readers take warning...

Naomi Wallace's sprawling, movie-like script hop-scotches through time telling at least three intertwined stories set in a dead-end town in about 1937, and it's full of enough Southern Gothic (or is it Hillbilly Weird?) to make Flannery O'Connor blush. Luckily, its young cast takes all its outrageous surprises and the obsessions of its characters at face value --- though the audience tonight may break into frequent laughter at a sad story of teen-age love and sudden, fearful death.

At the center of this Gordian Knot of scenes are a girl named Pace (Lora Uebelhart) who's seventeen, and Dalton (Justin Dilley) who's fifteen. The difference in ages is much more important here than a difference in gender. She taunts and dares him to run with her across that high trestle-bridge, TOWARD an oncoming train, intending to get to the other side in time to jump out of the way. And they know it's dangerous because a schoolmate named Brett tried it, and died. Dalton insists "He wasn't a looney!" and Pace that "He was Not my boyfriend!" but his name and eventually his odd family experience turn up occasionally in the story.

Dalton's father (Elio Maggini) is laid-off and depressed, refusing to share the intention of his wife (Donna Spurlock) to join a radical group who want to take over a closed glass-factory and make it pay. Instead, he sits beside a single candle making shadow-animals on the wall, afraid to leave the house for fear no one will be able to see a man who has no job.

The pair playing the kids are excellently matched. Dalton is what would be called a nerd, if it weren't 1937: he has the grades but not the money for college, has no social skills, and yearns to be as self-aware, self-contained, and devil-may-care as Pace. Whether they will make that mad dash, and whether either will glance back and/or stumble, hangs in the balance. At one point, Pace demands they masturbate, while each pretends to be the opposite sex, telling one another what sensations they are going through.

Didn't I say "Southern Gothic" a while back???

Dalton ends up in jail, reticent about his guilt and his crime --- and Brett's father (Nathan Lamont) just happens to be his jailor. (Remember Brett?) And in another cell, the president of that smashed glass factory awaits hanging mad as a hatter, miming animals the jailor says. That gives them something to talk about when Dalton's dad (the maker of shadow-animals?) bravely visits his son. Then the truth about both Brett and about Dalton force themselves to the surface, and both doubts, and ghosts, are laid to rest.

The Turnstyle Theatre Project came into being for the very best of reasons I can think of: a group of yong people from some colleges wanted to act. That happens a lot in Boston, and often involves a few people from Emerson --- such as Adrienne Moon, who directed this show. Turnstyle is so brave and so numerous that they are doing not one but Two plays, with different casts, on alternate nights. "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" is opening as I type, and I will go back tomorrow (Which will be SATURDAY*) to review their second play --- which may be called "Falls" [Well, "Stalls" actually] but with no programs I wouldn't trust the memory of a soon-to-be seventy-one year old man about anything these days.

There. It's 10:17 p m, and I'm finishing the review just about the moment the opening-night audience is walking back across the bridge toward the South Station T-stop, lingering in the mizzle to watch the water and the lights and the wind play with one another in shimmering, ever-changing patterns. They are probably discussing the odd, fascinating play.
[Bracketted information are corrections added later.]


"The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" (1 August)
Actors' Workshop, 327 Summer Street, BOSTON MA

Yesterday morning I thought it was Thursday. It was, but when I called VoriZon Weather a voice gaily announced it was a forecast for WEDNESDAY, and I believed it. So --- not having to rush to see this play when I got back, I went to Beth Israel Hospital's pharmacy to fill prescriptions that their Emergency Room gave me the previous day. (Yes, I was back for a second time with the same symptoms.) When I got here and called a friend she said "First, it IS Thursday!" and I immediately panicked and said "Damn, I've lost a day and I have only an hour to get to the play I'm supposed to review!" and I bombed out to the T not fully aware that though it was indeed Thursday, the play was scheduled for ... Friday. "Not Thursday," as I used to catechize infant "Like Thursday. Not Thursday. Friday."
And tomorrow will indeed be Saturday and I will be going back to the same place to see the same company do a wholly different play, bring home some programs, and watch the wind and the water and the lights play with one another while I think about what I will have seen.
And you can do the same....

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