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A CurtainUp Review
Marys sister Sara (Amy Redford), whom Frances calls "Aunt," is a tough cookie and a frequent visitor to the farmhouse where she understandably fumes and frets less about losing her job as a Vet technician for giving a dog the wrong medicine than about losing her boyfriend of fifteen years. It seems he simply split when she said "no" too many times. Mary and Sara are cut from the same mold and not above taking swipes at the upscale neighbor. They take particular joy stealing signs that read "When Clinton lied. . .no one died,"and "No blood for oil," from her lawn. Francess one-year older brother Warren (Jedadiah Schultz), is not a scholar like his sister but a plumbing apprentice who happens to be in love with a girl from a wealthy family. When we first see him, however, he is in jail serving a fifteen year term for manslaughter.
If my assessment of the basic setup makes the play seem a bit trite and predictable, dont be fooled. Playwright Daisy Foote has created some vivid characters, each of whom resonate with emotional honesty within a keenly observed reality. In her program bio, Foote dedicates the play "to my father and life-long inspiration — Horton Foote." Based on the excellence of this play, she can anticipate praise enough to make her esteemed father proud. As superbly directed by Evan Yionoulis, Bhutan is being presented in a fully-staged production at the Cherry Lane Theater following an encouraging workshop earlier this year. Happily the cast is the same allowing for the actors to demonstrate the art of fine tuning as well as the rewards of ensemble acting.
Foote uses a playing-with-time structure that seems to be au courant, which here allows for the past to feed the present and increase our empathy and understanding of the characters as they reveal more and more about themselves. The action moves between the dilapidated farmhouse kitchen and the prison visiting room. Laura Hymans realistic setting includes just enough space to indicate the prison visiting room. This is all expertly enhanced by Pat Dignans lighting and the clanging of cell doors, the work of sound designer Bart Fasbender.
Lord embodies Frances with a wistful longing that also reflects the desperation she feels at being trapped in a family situation without an escape clause. Her conflicted feelings are the result of Mrs. Letempkins nurturing and influence, her mothers resentment of Mrs. Letempkin and her brother
s dependency and constant need for her support. Lord's petite stature suits her character perfectly and she certainly stands out in contrast to the other women, if for nothing else than reading Jude the Obscure. Mary is an attractive and vital woman with a no-nonsense approach to keeping control of things and Lawrence fills the role with vigor and a fierce sensuality that make us think that even a new man in her life would never mellow her manner. Tall, blonde and full-figured Redford is terrific as the raucous beer-guzzling, bitter Sara, who is not afraid of a good fight, even if it is with her sister. A knock-down hair-pulling cat fight between them is a lulu.
Schultz is thoroughly convincing as Warren. He certainly makes us experience the torment of an all-consuming love and the despair he feels in an incarceration that is corrupting his nature. There is nothing corrupted about the New England dialects that the actors assume with aplomb. And there is nothing that pricks up our ears or alerts our interest more than to hear words coming from characters that ring true, and see behavior that defines who these people are, as we follow a nicely dramatized homespun yarn to its conclusion.
The Cherry Lane Theater has been nicely refurbished since my last visit though I am sorry to see that the historic tavern/restaurant next to the theater is closed. To read CurtainUp's interview with Daisy Foote at the time Bhutan was workshopped, go here.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide