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A Rail Tale

a Comedy/Drama
by Candy Cain Spahr

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3721

SHOWING : April 30, 2010 - May 23, 2010



As a new century dawns, eight people, each with their own dreams and uncertainties for the future, board a luxury steam locomotive bound from Boston to Chicago. Mankinds’s old foes– greed, deceit and suspicion-accompany the travelers. A mystery loom large. Soon all aboard the train are pulled into a web of intrigue. A Rail Tale is set during the golden age of railroads, as this growing industrial nation welcome the 20th century. A two-act period piece, it weaves humor with the social history of the times.

Writer/Composer Candy Cain Spahr
Director Jeannie Hinds
Tom Ryan Derrel Emmerson
Patrick O'Brien Greg Fitzgerald
Emily Teresa Harris
Sally Millen Kellen Jahn
Helen Kestrel Martha Kennedy
Jason Hargrove Brink Miller
Colleen O'Brien Mollie Sullivan
Luke Conley Mike Yow
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by playgoer
Sunday, May 9, 2010
"A Rail Tale" is a generally interesting play that illuminates its time period of 1900, although some of the research shows in the writing. It's a period piece, driven as much by character as by plot. It's more a drama than a comedy, and as much a mystery as a drama..

The mystery concerns the suicide of leading lady Helen Kestrel's sister, after being rebuffed by the "ladykiller" bandit. A number of suspects make their way through the railroad car that forms the set. The cast is composed of eight characters:
1) Jason Hargrove, the "captain" of the train and its part-owner ... (be suspicious of his economic motives)
2) Sally Millen, a meek waitress in the dining car ... (be suspicious of her dirty secret)
3) Luke Conley, a replacement steward ... (be suspicious of his investigatory nature)
4) Helen Kestrel, a famous New York actress relocating to Chicago .. (don't be suspicious; she's our heroine)
5) Colleen McDougal, her newly-hired assistant ... (be suspicious of her relationship with the mourning lady)
6) Patrick O'Brien, an Irish thief in search of a job ... (be suspicious of his disguise)
7) Tom Ryan, a wealthy misogynist ... (be suspicious of his bluster)
8) Emily Ryan, Tom's wife ... (be suspicious of her teetotaling)

The action takes place in a railcar, nicely designed with sleek curves by Wally Hinds and constructed by him and David Shelton (who also did the lighting design). The period costumes are terrific (also designed by Wally Hinds), with Martha Kennedy looking especially lovely in her lacy gowns.

All performances are capable, although the pace doesn't always hold up. Derrel Emmerson in particular, as Tom Ryan, sounds like he's getting lost in the middle of his lines. Mike Yow, on the other hand, seems all too ready to give his next line before the cue has been given. They both bring good energy to their roles, though.

Mollie Sullivan does a wonderful Irish accent, as does Greg Fitzgerald in his limited appearances. Kellen Jahn does terrific work too. The most memorable performance, though, comes from Teresa Harris as a brow-beaten, yet loved wife. She brings variety and believability to a character that could easily have become a caricature.

The leads, Brick Miller and Martha Kennedy, have the most difficult jobs onstage. Both speak their lines ably and do their best to invest their characters with life. There's not a lot of real chemistry, though, and it's only the most oversize personalities that can pull off the task of portraying a famous actress and her head-over-heels beau. In the final scene of the play, I found myself not really caring what became of their relationship. Part of this was due to the writing, which was a little long in the denouement, but part was due to a lack of true connection between the actors.

Candy Cain Spahr has written a generally entertaining and well-researched play. The physical production it is being given at Kudzu Playhouse is first-rate. At the end, though, I was left with a desire for less writing and more genuine connection onstage. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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