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The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part Two
The Orphans' Home Cycle Part Two at the Signature Theater
|I am no orphan, but I think of myself as an orphan, belonging to no one but you. I intend to have everything I didn't have before. A hose of my own, some land, a yard, and in that yard I will plant growing things, fruitful things. . .and I do believe I might now have these things, because you married me.— Horace, in Act 3: Valentine's Day.
Two years have passed since The Orphans' Home Cycle's first part ended with Horace Robedeaux's unhappy visit to the Houston home of his mother and hostile stepfather. It's 1912 and Horace is about to come closer to achieving the sense of belonging he lost at age twelve when his father died.
Maggie Lacey and Bill Heck
(Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
The more upbeat story we're about to witness is launched with another of the stunning opening scenes that director Michael Wilson has created to stitch these former stand-alone plays into a big, beautiful, finely shaded patchwork. We again see Horace (another deeply felt performance by Bill Heck) wandering across the stage as a series of moving panels spell out the title. That suitcase symbolizes the loneliness and yearning that haunts fatherless men. To establish the more hopeful part of this epic journey, Horace is surrounded by pairs of dancing ensemble members.
The story of Horace's short-lived romance with the beautiful young widow, Claire Ratliff (Virginia Kull), and his courtship and marriage to Elizabeth Vaughn (Maggie Lacey) is, like the entire Cycle, propelled by subtle details and ordinary conversations rather than any explosive or suspenseful plot developments.
It is Horton Foote's ability to engage us in the very ordinariness of these lives that makes these stories as riveting as any play full of edge-of-the-seat action and suspense.
The delicate shading of Foote's storytelling and the nine plays' thematic connection is smartly underscored by the way the actors are cast to play a variety of roles. To give just one example, the opening act of Parts One and Two are smartly linked together by the fact that Virginia Krull plays both Horace's widowed mother in the first part and the young widow he's smitten with in the second, and that Dylan Riley Snyder metamorphoses from Horace at age 12 to the Widow Claire's son Buddy (in another standout performance).
We thus have two different women played by one actress faced with and settle for pragmatic choices and we see Horace and Buddy linked by the multiple role casting as they share the pain of losing a father at an early age that can never quite go away. There's yet another variation on saga's invisible and unerasable scar of experiencing a father's death at a young age (and so accounting for the plural of the title's Orphans): Horace's initially antagonistic father-in-law Mr. Vaughn (James DeMarse) was also half-orphaned at age twelve which makes you understand his over-protectiveness of his daughter which initially makes him come across as smug and dictatorial. DeMarse makes a tour-de-force transition from a drunken character in the somewhat gothic Convicts of Part One to the successful business owner and family man Horace yearns to be. As Lauren noted when she reviewed this segment in Hartford, the bond that forms not only between Horace and Elizabeth but between him and her family makes for some powerfully moving moments.
For audience members who see Part two without having seen Part 1, the program includes a handy summary and I assume this will be true for Part three which will take us forward to the next decade of life in Harrison, Texas.
Naturally, no summary can do justice to seeing Horace's epic journey unfold on stage and watching stellar ensemble members like Hallie Foote, Annalee Jefreys and Pamela Payton-Wright amaze us once again with their persona changing virtuosity.
With the concluding triptych of the Cycle titled 1918 it seems inevitable that Harrison's citizenry wil be affected by the Spanish flue epidemic and the first World War. It might not be a bad idea to come with plenty of tissues.
Part One: The Story of a Childhood: 1902-1910
Prologue and Act 1: Roots in a Parched Ground 1902-1903. . .Act 2: Conficts 1904. . .Act 3 Lily Dale 1911
Part Three: The Story of a Family 1918 . . . Cousins . . . The Death of Papa - reviewed at Hartford Stage
Horton Foote Backgrounder
The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part Two: The Story of a Marriage- 1912-1917 The Widow Claire, Courtship and Valentine's Day
By Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson
Cast Part Two: Annalee Jeffries (Lucy Vaughn Stewart), Dylan Riley Snyder, (Buddy), Virginia Kull (Claire Ratliff, Bessie Stillman), Emily Robinson (Molly), Maggie Lacey (Elizabeth Vaughn Robedaux), Justin Fuller (Ed Corday, Dr. Greene), Jenny Dare Paulin (Laura Vaughn), Hallie Foote (Mrs.Vaughn), Bill Heck (Horace Robedaux), Devon Abner (Roger Culpepper, Bobby Pate), Lucas Caleb Rooney (Val Stanton, George Tyler), Bryce Pinkham (Felix Barclay, Brother Vaughn), James DeMarse (Mr. Vaughn), Pamela Payton-Wright (Sarah Vaughn, Ruth Amos), Stephen Plunkett (Archie Gordon, Steve Tyler), Pat Bowie (Eliza)
Scenic Design: Jeff Cowie and David Barber
Projections Design: Jan Hartley
Lighting Design: Rui Rita
Original Music and Sound Design: John Gromada
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Choreographer/Movement Director: Maxwell Williams
Wig and Hair Design: Mark Adam Rampmeyer
Fight Director: Mark Olsen
Running Time: 3 hours, with 2 10-minute intermissions
Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space 555 West 42nd Street
From 11/04/09; opening 11/19/09; closing 3/29/10
The three plays will run in repertory once all begin. For performance calendar, including the 3 all-daymarathon dates see www.signaturetheatre.org
Tickets: $20, $65 after beginning of 3/06/10 extension date
Comments above based on December 12th th matinee performance
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Review of Part One
Review of Part Three
The satisfying and sweeping saga of Horace Robedaux continues in The Orphans Home Cycle at Hartford Stage with The Story of a Marriage, as Michael Wilson expertly directs a cast of 22 in more than 70 roles in part II of a three-part adaptation of a nine-play cycle by Horton Foote.
Pride is fine if you can afford it
— Mr. Vaughn.
It's 1912 and Horace (Bill Heck) is off to business school and misses out on the possibility of a more serious relationship with the widow Claire (Virginia Krull), despite the fact that her children, Molly (Georgi James) and Buddy (Dylan Riley Snyder), prefer him to a long list of gentleman callers whom the children take delight in comparing.
Instead of the widow Horace later courts Elizabeth Vaughn (Maggie Lacey) over the objections of her parents (James DeMarse and Hallie Foote), who think he's too wild for their daughter. The couple elopes and enjoys wedded bliss.
Estranged from her family, Elizabeth spends time with Bessie (also played by Kull), a fellow rooming house boarder and mentally challenged friend while she awaits the birth of her child. The Vaughns, softened by the impending arrival of a grandchild, make an unexpected visit to reconcile their differences.
Though of the nine parts in the cycle that seems the least at home in the story and that probably could have been cut, the story is a delightful look at the bond that forms between Horace and Elizabeth, and with Horace and her parents. In one of the plays most moving moments, Horace explains just how marriage to Elizabeth has brought him the only happiness he's ever known following a lifetime of feeling rejected by his mother and sister.
Foote's wonderful gift for storytelling, the excellent cast of chameleons who transform themselves into various characters (Annalee Jeffries often has audience members gasping when they recognize her in four very different parts over the course of the cycle) leave us wanting even more despite the three-hour run time (and we will get it in Part 3).
Editor's Note: The production notes were the same at Hartford as at the Signature, and this part of the cycle was reviewed by Lauren Yarger on Oct. 17, 2009