Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good Theater In Magdalena

By Anne Sullivan

It could be today. That’s the feeling Magdalena’s London Frontier Theatre’s production of “Hard Times And Hope” evokes. No jobs, no money to spare, foreclosures; it sounds all too familiar. Faithful followers of the Lost Wife series have watched the Trotters and the Aragons of the play live through the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Author Donna Todd has been recording their trials and tribulations for almost ten years. This production is a compendium of favorite scenes from the series. “About one quarter of the material is new,” says Donna Todd, who plays Gardy Trotter as well as writing and directing the production.
The vignettes are all wonderful pithy scenes, some very humorous, and they’re all well played.
The excellent music and singing of Randall Engle and Emily Johnson serve to sew the scenes together like the patchwork quilt that hangs on the Trotters’ kitchen wall. After their haunting rendition of ‘Hard Times Come Again’ at the beginning of the performance the lights come up on the kitchen where Gardy and Cass Trotter and Manny and Ruby Aragon are clustered around the staticy radio listening to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech at the beginning of his presidency. The closing scene returns to the radio and FDR with the “Day that will live in infamy” speech when he asks Congress “to declare a state of was between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.”
Frank Howard, Fernando Montano and Donna Todd have donned their characters like old shoes and Joni Holt is a worthy addition as Ruby. Terry Stone is a new Mr. Gibbers while Diane Allen, Janice Brunacini and Ruth Ryan make short but meaningful appearances. Ronald Thornton does the work of three men as Stage Manager, Lighting Designer and Sound Technician. Incidentally the sound effects are great.
My only quibble is that the evening -- especially the first act -- is too long and the effect of the play would be stronger if several vignettes were omitted. It would be a tough choice as I liked them all. That said, by all means see this production. You will laugh and maybe cry, and you’ll realize that, with a little grit, ingenuity and determination, we can all survive a depression.
Performances are at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug.6 and Saturday, Aug. 7 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8.

No comments:

Post a Comment