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a Drama
by Barney Norris

COMPANY : Staged Right Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hanarry Swim and Racquet Club [WEBSITE]
ID# 5248

SHOWING : March 16, 2018 - March 25, 2018



In a farmhouse at the edge of Salisbury Plain, a family is falling apart. Stephen can’t afford to put his mother into care; Arthur can’t afford to stop working and look after his wife. When a young stranger with blue hair moves in to care for Edie as her mind unravels, the family are forced to ask: Are we living the way we wanted? VISITORS is a sharply funny love story that takes a haunting, beautiful look at the way our lives slip past us.

Director Brian Jones
Edie Betty Mitchell
Arthur Gene Paulsson
Kate Amanda Christine Peclat-Begin
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by playgoer
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Barney Norris’ "Visitors" is a very English play, with lots of British terms and references, although in Jeff LeCraw’s dialect coaching, the speech patterns sounded fairly Irish to my ears. At least the accents are pretty consistent and convincing. There’s always the danger in staging British plays that failed attempts at an accent can harm a production.

Staged Right’s production takes place on a postage-stamp sized set not much larger than 12’ x 15’, but it’s well-appointed. Katy Clarke’s set design features a lovely faux stacked stone fireplace and back wall, with two armchairs and a sofa providing seating. Small tables and a bookcase complete the furnishing, with the rug on the floor echoing the green and deep rose tones of the chairs and sofa. On initial examination, the books and photographs and kerosene lamp suggest an earlier time period, but the play is set in the modern day, just in a farmhouse that has been held in the Wakeling family for generations. Lisa Croteau’s costumes and Mary Susan Moore’s props reflect the modern-day setting.

The lighting design by Jim Nelson doesn’t enhance the set. Its rather harsh illumination emphasizes the artificiality of the set painting, which looks delightfully real under dimmer lights. At least at the performance I attended, one scene of rumination started under dim light that bafflingly underwent a variety of color changes that eventually turned to the general illumination used for most of the play. A spotlight is used to effect for a brief dance segment, although Brian Jones’ sound design with a pop song blaring doesn’t mesh with his staging of the initial dancing character wearing earphones, when another character joins in the singing and dancing as if the music is equally audible to her.

Otherwise, Mr. Jones’ direction is excellent, if a bit static in blocking (understandable in a tiny space, with two elderly characters most comfortable in a sitting position). The emotions in this drama come through clearly, with tears welling in most of the cast members’ eyes in the most emotional moments. The only thing I could wish is that the earlier hints of dementia in Edie (Betty Mitchell) were accompanied by a bit of a glaze in her eyes, as we see in her later ramblings.

"Visitors" is a generally quiet play, more of a mood piece than a rollicking adventure. We see a caregiver coming into a house, interactions between the elderly couple and their semi-estranged son, and a final departure to assisted care. Betty Mitchell does a nice job with Edie, and Gene Paulsson is totally convincing as her devoted farmer husband. Amanda Peclat-Began adds a perky note as the caregiver, and Nick Elliot comes across beautifully as a glad-handing sales manager whose unresolved issues with his parents supply much of the drama of the piece.

"Visitors" has a somber sincerity that comes across clearly in Staged Right’s production. It’s a well-directed and well-acted piece, but its slow, steady pace makes for an audience challenge on the unyielding seating surfaces of folding metal chairs. Here’s hoping that Staged Right’s search for a permanent home comes to fruition, where its interesting roster of both little-known and classic plays can be presented in an environment more comfortable for actors and audience alike. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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