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a Drama
by Steve Yockey

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 5422

SHOWING : January 15, 2019 - January 15, 2019



The present. America. Bellwether is a nice, quiet, safe place to live. Bad things just don’t happen here. Until, that is, six-year-old Amy Draft goes missing from her bedroom. As the investigation progresses, speculation in the media and the neighborhood rapidly focuses on Amy’s parents, Alan and Jackie Draft. But the young girl’s disappearance is not what it seems and is only a glimpse of what lurks just below the community’s perfect, suburban surface.

Director Clifton Guterman
The Doll Eliana Marianes
Maddy Schafer Stacy Melich
Neighbor 6/Detective 2 Tamil Periasamy
Neighbor 2/Reporter 2 Diany Rodriguez
Alan Draft J. Joe Sykes
Neighbor 3/Reporter 3 Kathleen Wattis
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Abduction Deductions
by playgoer
Friday, January 18, 2019
Steve Yockey’s "Bellwether" is set in a gated subdivision named Bellwether. It’s a friendly place, where nothing bad ever happens ... until it does. Almost-seven-year-old Amy Draft goes missing, and suspicion in the media and the neighborhood falls on her parents. Then other children disappear too, and we head into the almost-supernatural to get an explanation.

In the staged reading at Theatrical Outfit, there’s the normal set-up of a line of folding chairs and music stands to accommodate the cast, who move forward from their chairs to enact scenes, then move back to sit when their character is offstage. This set-up is augmented by a bed stage right. Crayon drawings scattered on the floor upstage of the chairs tie in with the hand-drawn picture by Amy that functions as the only clue to her disappearance. We don’t see Amy (Rachel Mewbron) or a mechanical doll (Eliana Marianes) until the play veers into supernatural territory. It’s a nice distinction from the real world, populated by those onstage all the time.

There’s no scenery, but director Clifton Guterman has blocked the action to make each scene’s setting clear. There are a couple of chairs downstage to indicate living room scenes and the bed at stage right to indicate bedroom scenes. Outdoor scenes take place on the general stage floor, and reporters’ broadcasts are indicated by the reporters standing side-by-side with microphones in hand. It’s very effective staging.

Acting is splendid throughout, and the rhythms of Yockey’s speech patterns come through clearly, with lots of overlapping dialogue. The main characters of Amy’s parents are played by Joe Sykes and Kate Donadio MacQueen, and they bring lots of emotional energy to their roles. So does Stacy Melich, who plays a neighbor and close friend. Her breaking voice at the end of the play underscores the unhappy ending she is experiencing, in direct contrast to the cheery pronouncements of the neighbors following Amy’s return. All the supporting neighbors, who double as reporters (the females) or detectives (the males), contribute mightily to the atmosphere of the piece.

This is what staged readings should be. Scripts in hand ensure the playwright’s words are honored verbatim, but staging brings motion and clarity to the scenes. Sound effects are wonderful, starting with the bird chirps in the pre-show audio and cycling through thumps and screams that mesh beautifully with onstage action. Mr. Guterman deserves great credit for bringing this intriguing, spooky script to life, aided by a cast of first-rate Atlanta actors. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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