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The Petrified Forest

a Drama
by Robert E. Sherwood

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center
ID# 4577

SHOWING : May 02, 2014 - May 18, 2014



A drifter, a waitress and a notorious gangster tangle in a lonely desert diner.

Director J. Michael Carroll
Boze Josh Banker
Lineman 1 Brian Beechum
Gramp James Connor
Jackie Jay Croft
Joseph John Kelly Damico
Gabby Genny Dimitrova
Duke Allan Dodson
Ruby David Fisher
Paula "Pepita" Maggie Gasior
Herb Alan Gilmer
Pyles Rod Holmes
Mr. Chisolm Scott King
Commander Joseph McLaughlin
Squier Mark Owen
Mrs. Chisolm Kathleen Seconder
Lineman 2 Allen Stone
Jason Rick Thompson
Sheriff Eric "ET" Tilgner
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A Scared Collection of Trees
by playgoer
Sunday, May 18, 2014
"The Petrified Forest" starts out as a very dated play, with a political argument between an American Legion member and a communist-leaning line worker. There are references to Lew Wallace and Billy the Kid by an old-timer as persons within his living memory, so this clearly is a play taking place well in the past, during the Great Depression. Once the time-setting elements are out of the way, though, the action takes on a pretty universal feel, in a poetic sort of way. Gangsters are on the lam and end up at an out-of-the-way gas station/café near the Petrified Forest. The large cast consists of the café workers, the gangsters, and various people who show up for food and/or fuel.

The guests are all excellent. Alan Gilmer provokes laughs in his cameo as Herb, and Allen Stone and Brian Beechum start the play with verve and energy as two linemen. Scott King and Kathleen Seconder play a believably unhappy upper-crust couple, with Ms. Seconder doing a bang-up job on her monologue. Others in the supporting cast do equally well, or, in the case of Mark Owen as Alan Squier, surpasses anyone else in the cast. The role of Squier is the alcohol-fueled hero at the center of the story, and Mr. Owen makes the audience believe every moment of his performance.

The gangsters are pretty darn good too. Jay Croft plays the chattily cheery Jackie, while David Fisher plays the taciturn Ruby, and both make big impressions. Allan Dodson plays gang leader Duke with reserve (and not quite enough volume), forming a menacing presence around which activity revolves.

There are some problems in the staff of the café. James Connor, as Gramp, couldn’t be better, and Maggie Gasior, as Paula, has wonderful reactions to the constant demands being made of her as cook. The others, though, while they have good volume and expressive voices, tend to deliver their lines with intonations that speak more of memorization than of heartfelt expression. They’re well directed, by J. Michael Carroll, but the conception seems to be slightly out of the reach of the actors.

A gap between conception and execution also exists in the set, designed by Katy Clarke. The cut-away wall is painted an unpleasant brownish color, and the evocative painted backdrop behind it is hung with wrinkles. Lighting, designed by Gary White, does the set no favors. There is no neon light effect, and the front-heavy lighting casts shadows on the backdrop from the supports, window, and door in the cut-away space. What should have been a lovely view into the arid Southwest landscape becomes a two-dimensional painting.

In other technical aspects, the show does not falter. Costumes, by Linda Hughes and Carolyn Ferraiolo, work well for the period and for all the characters. Props, by Tanya Caldwell and Liz Bigler, contain lots of nifty period elements. Sound design, by Bob Peterson, nicely sets up each scene. I was told there were sound problems at the performance I saw, but they were not detectable in the audience.

Director J. Michael Carroll has blocked the large cast expertly, keeping the action moving while ensuring visibility. "The Petrified Forest" is not the most up-to-date script available for the stage, and it does show its age, but it is true to that age, without adding anachronistic touches. The movie version is a Humphrey Bogart/Bette Davis/Leslie Howard classic. The stage play has more of a closed-in feel, but it retains the plot that classic movie buffs are familiar with. It’s certainly worth a viewing in Norcross’ intimate College Street Playhouse. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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