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Ethan Frome

a Atlanta Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Dennis Krausnick, based on the novel by Edith Wharton

COMPANY : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 3695

SHOWING : March 10, 2010 - April 11, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A new adaption of Edith Wharton’s classic heart-wrenching tale. When a snowbound visitor arrives at the Frome farm, a mesmerizing tale unfolds, with a searing and passionate love triangle frozen into the New England hills. The cast includes: Robin Bloodworth, Paul Hester, Erica Honeycutt, and Ellen McQueen.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director James Donadio
Ethan Frome Robin Bloodworth
Homer Winterson Paul Hester
Mattie Silver Erica Honeycutt
Zenobia Frome Ellen McQueen
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Durance Bleak
by Dedalus
Thursday, April 8, 2010
4.0
Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome is a bleak man. The wintry landscape of Starkfield Mass has entered his life with a chill that freezes to the bone. He is a large man, crushed by a bleak marriage and a bleak life. And yet, his story, as told in this stage adaptation by Shakespeare & Co’s Dennis Krausnick**, embraces the bleakness like a winter coat, and puts the story in an oddly cheerful narration by actor Paul Hester.

As in Wharton’s original 1911 novel, the narrator visits Starkfield and becomes intrigued by hulking and crippled Ethan Frome. Getting little information about the man from the taciturn townsfolk, he hires Ethan as a temporary driver, and, one blizzard night, must take shelter in Frome’s prison-like farmhouse, where the full story comes out. It is a bleak story of a marriage gone wrong, a forbidden passion that threatens to thaw the ice at the core of the story, and a sledding accident that seals the next two decades of bleak existence, a wintry chill that New England summers cannot hope to thaw.

Paul Hester is our way into this story, a blithely pleasant fellow who cannot help but be intrigued by the lives of those quieter than himself. It is through him we learn of Ethan’s life, and he is our protection, our shield that keeps the frosty heart from creeping from the stage to our own hearts. Yes, it’s a cold and depressing tale, but one that does not leave us cold and depressed ourselves.

Through Mr. Hester, we learn that Ethan Frome is a man given to the care of others. Sacrificing his own happiness to care for his sickly mother, he hires a local spinster, Zeena, to help with the day-to-day chores of long-term care. Zeena is a woman born to serve, obsessed with the car of the ailing. When Ethan’s mother is finally at rest, Zeena is left adrift. And Ethan, unable to bear the thought of solitude in this house-but-never-home, marries her.

Stripped of her purpose in life, Zeena becomes sickly herself, calling on Ethan to now be her caregiver. A young aid, Mattie, enters the picture and the foundations for a plot that traps all three in icy steel are laid.

As basic as this sounds, there are surprises in store, including a final shocker I was certainly not expecting (believe it or not, this is one work that escaped my English-major college years, and I’ve never actually read it). At a crisp 90 minutes, the story is over before it has a chance to depress, and I was left with an ache of sorrow, a pleasant sadness that a story about obsessive care-giving could be so, well, so bleak.

A white and grey set with a water-wheel frozen in ice provides the platform for these characters, and four actors (and two rollaway dummies) play them all. Occasionally, they don grey robes to move set pieces or manipulate the “townspeople” dummies, or just hover in the background. Mr. Hester is the flash of color that throws them all into perspective.

Robin Bloodworth plays Frome with a limp and a scowl and an overpowering presence that makes us understand the narrator’s interest in him. Ellen McQueen gives us a starchy Zeena who is surprisingly approachable and almost likeable in her early scenes. And Erica Honeycutt, quiet and withdrawn as Mattie, is nevertheless alluring and even pitiable – her softness of voice and sometimes hunched posture suggests a woman already cowed by that blank landscape, that harsh mistress, that hopeless outlook. Every aspect of this production works to give us a wintry story that is compelling and memorable.

This show is an example of that old adage that there is nothing depressing about a depressing story if it is done well (with the converse, even a happy story done badly can be depressing). Paul Hester gives another in a series of wonderful performances that bring us into this story, and takes us back safely to the warm comfort of our own lives, lives hopefully free of the bleak durance endured by these denizens of Starkfield, Massachusetts.

As our own winter melts towards spring, it is harsh reminder of the cold days that will soon be left behind.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

** Interestingly enough, Shakespeare & Company works out of Lenox, MA, believed by many to be the model for Wharton’s fictional Starkfield. She supposedly based the accident at the heart of this story on an actual incident that occurred in Lenox in 1904, a victim of which Ms. Wharton had become acquainted with.



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