Paul Sawyier, North Elkhorn Mill Pond 


The Day After: Three New Plays by Kentucky Playwrights

By Richard Cavendish, Nancy Gall-Clayton, George McGee
Directed by Kristi Johnson

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved

We are accustomed to discovering the work of Louisville playwrights on the stage of The Bard’s Town, so this program of three one-acts from the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, Inc. would seem to have found an appropriate home. One of the three dramatists featured here is no stranger: Nancy Gall-Clayton has been a frequent contributor to The Ten-Tucky Festival and her play, The Snowflake Theory was produced here a few seasons back. She opens the evening with Landscape of Tomorrow, a four-character piece about the suicide of a 19-year old man.

Teenage suicide is like the third rail of American drama, rife with opportunity for portentous cliché, and Gall-Clayton doesn’t entirely avoid that pitfall here, but she builds her story through an ambitious reverse chronology similar to Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, and the skewed perspective does help elevate our interest. The seven scenes are all tomorrows in a play steeped in melancholia. I cannot proclaim this my favorite work from this writer, but I appreciate the intellectualism and behavioral observation underlying the unfortunately predictable narrative.

Emily Eader does nice work here as the mourning girlfriend, Jewell, but Nicolas Cox as the suicidal boyfriend, Rick, D. Dee Shaw as his working-class mother, and Casey Kindler as Jewell’s socially conscious mother, don’t seem up to the more subtle aspects afforded these characters by the text. Some of the difficulty has to do with miscasting: Rick is supposed to be 2 years older than Jewell, yet Ms. Eader easily comes off as the older, more mature of the two, while Ms. Kindler seems better cast as Jewell’s older sister than her mother.

The cast fares better in Richard Cavendish’s The Two Villages, an emotional play about Kentucky painter Paul Sawyier that finds him being confronted by his paramour of two decades about infidelities. Jeff Armstrong as Sawyier is easily the most accomplished performance of the evening, and he beautifully captures the intention of the dialogue. Ranelle Rigney as his fiancé, Mayme Bull, may also be slightly miscast here, but she manages to find the right emotional nuances with a script that relies on dramatic shifts in tone.

I don’t doubt Mr. Cavendish’s scholarship here, and he displays some nice feeling for dialogue, although it sounds at times a bit too modern for 1910, but the scene strains to cover all of the dynamics of a 20-year romantic relationship, and relies on contrived beats and climaxes that feel artificial. Breaking up the structure a bit might have helped expand the canvas for the play’s historical ambition. The interaction between the two is certainly intimate, but the context is complex.

Something Must Be Done, by George McGee, is a comedy, which is particularly welcome after the sober-minded nature of the first two plays. It begins promisingly, with an eccentric named Mitch, played by Scott West, winning the on-line auction of a Michigan lighthouse, much to the chagrin of his wife, Ms. Rigney again. As other characters enter the scene, it becomes clear that the purchase is an action intended to reclaim the innocence of childhood, but the theme is squandered with an anti-climactic ending that is really no ending at all; the play just stops.

The playing in this last piece, the cast of which included all of the ensemble members, was generally more relaxed and showed the actors to better advantage. Mr. McGee has hold of a good idea here, but the text could stand further development. He starts to build something intriguing, with a well-judged absurdist edge, and then he lets it dissipate unsatisfyingly, with no real conclusion.

The group will also present more new work by Kentucky playwrights at The Kentucky New Play Series 2015, August 24 at 7pm on the Kentucky State Fair’s Performing Arts Stage.

The Day After: Three New Plays by Kentucky Playwrights

August 12-16, 2015  @7:30 PM

Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, Inc. & Artists Asylum
At The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205


Keith[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for[/box_light]