Magdalen Hartman, Ron Dawson, & Tim Kitchen in
The Man From Earth. Photo-Wayward Actors Company
The Man from Earth
Based on the screenplay by Jerome Bixby
Adapted by Richard Schenkman
Directed by Craig Nolan Highley
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
It’s pretty impressive how wide of a spectrum the term “science fiction” covers. At first, the term makes me think of aliens from outer space or boldly going where no man has gone before. Diving deeper into the genre, science fiction often addresses hefty concepts like survival, humanity, philosophy and religion. So it’s no wonder that Star Trek writer Jerome Bixby crafted a script exploring mankind in The Man from Earth. This weekend Wayward Actors Company premiered this play at The Bards Town, although the crowd was intimate, the cast kept interest with the play’s argument between reason and skepticism.
John Oldman, played by Tim Kitchen, is the focus of the play. He is an ageless nomad who picks up and moves every ten years. It is in Oldman we find the script’s debate: did this man really survive the upper Paleolithic era? Was he really a cave man who has lived all this time? In his performance, Kitchen defends himself like that of a specimen under a microscope. Although his character is stated to be mysterious and aloof, Kitchen highlights a need for understanding in the examination of what Oldman has been through and who he is.
The primary cast is comprised of eight other characters. They serve as students, skeptics and surrogates to the audience. Strong performances are provided by Darren McGee as Harry and Janice Walter as Edith respectively. Representing faith and conviction, Walter portrays a character that is steadfast in seeking truth in Oldman’s story. McGee gives a well-rounded portrayal as Harry, a professor whose disbelief is driven by intoxicated reason. R. Edwin Dawson’s performance as Art provides nice contrast in his logic and suspicion. As Oldman begins to explain his life story, Dawson’s Art never falters in his disbelief, creating a nice foil for the main character. Other characters strive to seek understanding and learn from Oldman. Magdalen Hartman exemplifies a wide-eyed curiosity as student Linda, while Jeremy Gutierrez as Dan presents his scholarly knowledge to the table in effort to understand the so-called caveman.
On the evening I attended, Rich Williams played psychologist Gruber, a character double cast with Hy Stein. In this performance, Williams does well in relating and connecting with Oldman on an emotional level while keeping the analysis in check. The chemistry between Williams and Kitchen is perhaps too subtle to make any educated revelations as the play reaches its climax. Within this relationship lies the huge plot twist, which alters the entire scope of the play. It might be Jerome Bixby’s fault for creating such a dense script for a director to dissect, but generally speaking the emotional impact the play seems to build towards was missing.
Still, with heady discussion of concepts like survival and faith, Wayward Actors certainly has a production that will make you think.
The Man From Earth
October 3-12, 2014 @ 7:30pm
Wayward Actors Company
The Bards Town Theater
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!