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See Rock City
a Comedy/Drama
by Arlene Hutton

COMPANY : Theatre Buford
VENUE : Sylvia Beard Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5316

SHOWING : August 10, 2018 - August 26, 2018



Picking up a year after the ending of Arlene Hutton’s critically acclaimed "Last Train to Nibroc," this tender and funny sequel follows May and Raleigh through the end of World War II and introduces the characters of their two mothers-in-law. A medical condition keeps Raleigh from military service, and he is forced to sit idly on the porch, watching the cars drive by, as May supports them both as a high-school principal. Faced with daily rejection letters for his writing, constant criticism from his mother and taunts of cowardice from townspeople, Raleigh fights to find meaning in his new life. When tragedy strikes the family and May loses her job to returning soldiers, she discovers she must make an unimaginable sacrifice to save her relationship with Raleigh. This tender portrayal of married life, set against the backdrop of World War II, shows the best of the human spirit and its ability to overcome any and all obstacles. The second play of a trilogy, and the recipient of the MacLean Foundation’s “In the Spirit of America” Award, SEE ROCK CITY stands alone as a very funny, touching and universal portrayal of a young couple very much in love.

Director Justin Walker
Mrs. Gill LaLa Cochran
May Amelia Fischer
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G.I. Bill Blues
by playgoer
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Arlene Hutton’s "See Rock City" is a quiet play that shows us the home side of World War II, where seemingly able-bodied men are shunned if they’re not in the service and where women are given career opportunities that abruptly end when returning servicemen replace them. Raleigh (Chris Harding) has epilepsy and his new bride May (Amelia Fischer) is supporting them as a school principal while they live with her parents (LaLa Cochran as Mrs. Gill and an unseen Mr. Gill). His mother (Gay H. Hammond as Mrs. Brummett) is the fourth character in the play, bringing a sour, redneck perspective that sees Raleigh as a lazy dreamer rather than as an epileptic struggling writer.

Theatre Buford has created a lovely physical production, featuring a set designed by Lee Maples that includes a full porch and house at an angle stage left, a two-seater lawn chair stage right, and various stumps and foliage to fill out the stage. It all works very well, with Ben Rawson’s lighting design nicely following the flow of light throughout the day and Adam Howarth’s sound design giving us all the motor sounds we need as cars pass by on the unseen road or park within an unseen portion of the yard. The stereophonic sound adds to the appeal of the production.

Julie Skrzypek’s props generally work well, although a yellowed period newspaper would probably be more effective as a modern facsimile. The featured prop is a birdhouse with "See Rock City" painted on top. It’s a souvenir for Mrs. Brummett from Raleigh and May’s honeymoon, which was supposed to take place south of Kentucky in Chattanooga but which actually ended up being north of Kentucky in Cincinnati, not that Raleigh ever lets his mother know that he and May never saw Rock City.

Jessica Snyder’s costumes allow for frequent costume changes that delineate one scene from the next, but tend to feature dropped hems or showing slips. The styles very nicely reflect the time period, though, and also the rural nature of the setting, while letting us know that May’s fashion sense transcends her surroundings.

Performances are all at a truly professional level. Ms. Hammond is a hoot as the largely unfiltered Mrs. Brummett, and Ms. Cochran provides a contrasting warmth and wisdom as Mrs. Gill, while using a well-timed "ain’t" to show that the Gills are at a social level above that of the Brummetts. Ms. Fischer makes for an engaging May, and Mr. Harding truly inhabits Raleigh, letting the audience feel all his pain and love and confusion. Justin Walker has done a great job of directing his actors to make their journeys seem real and heartfelt.

The play itself, however, tends to drag on a bit as it draws to its conclusion. The intermissionless play extends well past 90 minutes, and the sobering conclusion of the story doesn’t provide a warm feeling of conclusiveness. Perhaps it’s the nature of the play, as the second play in Ms. Hutton’s Nibroc trilogy, but the play leaves you wanting both more (in the nature of a happy ending) and less (in terms of length). In terms of production values, however, this is a top-notch, thoroughly professional offering featuring fine talent both onstage and off. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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