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at the Lost Studio

laywright Horton Foote was born in Wharton, Texas, and neither he nor his characters ever quite leave it—though for fictional purposes he calls it Harrison, "to protect the guilty." This work consists of three interrelated one-acts, centered on a small band of expatriates from Harrison, circa 1924.

In The Nightingale, Mabel Votaugh (Wendy Phillips) seems to be a typical, phlegmatic Southern housewife, but we catch glints of the anger, resentment, and compassion beneath the surface. Mabel finds herself virtually under siege by a demented young woman: Annie Gayle Long (Jenny Dare Paulin), whose inability to cope with the murder of her banker father causes her to ride streetcars all day and night. In The Dearest of Friends, Mabel offers Cokes and sympathy to her next-door neighbor Vonnie (Laura Richardson), who's trying to cope with an unfaithful husband. Spring Dance shifts the scene to the upscale asylum, where the increasingly fragmented Annie Gayle has been sent by her desperate husband (Brendan Bonner). She and her fellow inmates (Alex Kreuzwieser, John Blevins, and John Gardner) strive to control their unreliable memories, "nervous" outbreaks, and the desire and fear of going home.

The pace is leisurely, and the action occurs mostly offstage. Foote is more interested in character comedy and the fitful rhythms of everyday life, and director Scott Paulin wisely allows the play to follow its own meandering course. The performances are all first-rate, with special credit to Phillips for her rich, unshowy portrait of Mabel, Jim Haynie as her ever-dozing husband, and Paulin as the desperate Annie. Live music is provided by Deborah Vukovitz, Francis Soriano, and Jason Payne; Jeffrey Whitman's unit set neatly serves as both locales.

Presented by 2nd Story Theatre at the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. Nov. 17-Dec. 17. (310) 600-3682. www.theroadstohome.com.

Reviewed by Neal Weaver

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