LCT Continuing “Stage Insights”

This season, LCT continues its program "Stage Insights". In place of our usual reviewing process, Stage Insights provides more in-depth, personal reviews from a select number of our contributors dedicated to each of the theatres they are reviewing. In addition, they will be providing exciting Sneak Peaks of upcoming productions. Look for our Sneak Peaks on the front page of our website and our weekly reviews on the Review Page.

Incline Theatre Planning to Raise Your “Spirit” This Summer

 

Sneak Peek by Laurel Humes of Blithe Spirit: Incline Theatre

Actress Kayla Burress is channeling her inner ghost to play one in Blithe Spirit, opening June 28 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

Since this is a Noel Coward comedy, Elvira the Ghost is playful and clever. With the added advantage that no one can see her, “I can slouch around, say whatever I want, with no pretense or show,” Burress said.

That is freedom, in upper-class 1940’s England, where everyone keeps up a mannered and stylish veneer, putting on a show for each other. “Elvira is the opposite of that,” Burress said.

Here’s the plot:

Novelist Charles Condomine (Matt Krieg) was married to Elvira before she died seven years ago. Now his wife is Ruth (Grace Eichler). Charles is researching séances for a book, when clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Traci Taylor) calls up the ghost of Elvira.

Only Charles can see and hear Elvira, which sets up hilarious situations of misunderstanding as he reacts and Ruth thinks he’s crazy – until Elvira makes herself known to Ruth, too. There are many other twists, but I won’t spoil the fun.

Blithe Spirit, directed by Bob Brunner, is filled with special effects. Things float and break; there’s fog and haze. Elvira is ghostly in pale makeup and hair, light-colored and flowing costumes.

Blithe Spirit was first staged in 1941. In a testament to Noel Coward’s enduring humor, the play has been revived many times in London and New York, most recently on Broadway in 2009.

Elvira even died funny, Burress said. “She had a heart attack laughing at a radio show. She laughed to death!”

Burress, a 2015 musical theatre graduate of Ohio Northern University, just concluded a tour with Madcap Puppets and expects to appear next with The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.

Blithe Spirit runs Wednesdays-Sundays through July 23 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill.  For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

Incline’s Blithe Spirit is Supernaturally Sublime

Review by Laurel Humes of Blithe Spirit: Incline Theatre

Lift your spirits for a couple of hours by sharing them with the ghosts in Blithe Spirit, the venerable Noel Coward comedy now onstage at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

This must be said first: Even if the actors just did a costume style show on the set, it would be worth a trip to the theater. Costume and properties designer Caren Brady and set designer Brett Bowling have captured the elegant look of upper-class British society in the early 1940’s.

The expansive, lovely drawing room setting is filled with period furniture and props – French doors, book-filled shelves, artwork, a gramophone. Not just decorative; all will become part of the plot.

And it’s a fun plot, full of Coward’s sardonic wit. Novelist Charles Condomine (Matt Krieg) was married to Elvira before she died seven years ago (even the cause of death is humorous). Charles is now married to Ruth (Grace Eichler). He is researching séances for a book, when clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Traci Taylor) calls up the ghost of Elvira (Kayla Burress).

Only Charles can see and hear Elvira, which sets up hilarious situations of misunderstanding as he reacts and Ruth thinks he’s crazy – until Elvira makes herself known to Ruth, too. That’s Act 1; several more twists fill out the comedy.

Coward was quoted about these characters he created: “You can’t sympathize with any of them.” And the actors have a great time bringing these self-centered, high-mannered folks to life.

Well, Elvira is not technically alive, when she returns as a lively ghost. “I’ve passed over,” Elvira insists. “It’s vulgar to say dead where I come from.”

Burress is ghostly but beautiful in pale makeup, hair and gown. Her presence is enhanced by Denny Reed’s eerie lighting. Apparently, Elvira the ghost is pretty much the same as Elvira the woman. Burress plays her free-spirited and fun-loving, but also petulant, pouty and childish. You wouldn’t want to live with her.

Ruth certainly doesn’t want to share her house and husband with Elvira. Eichler’s Ruth is dignified and self-assured in her elegant gowns and home. She tries to be the voice of reason – but these circumstances are most unreasonable.

“I haven’t the faintest idea how to send her back,” Madame Arcati admits when Ruth pleads with her to get rid of Elvira. Besides, the medium is still crowing over her success in conjuring Elvira.

Taylor makes a fine Madame Arcati – sparkling, lively and eccentric – aided by flowing costumes that accommodate her physical comedy.

With all the effort to send Elvira back to the “other side,” it is not clear that Charles wants to. Krieg plays the two-wife husband just short of whining and very long on ego when dealing with the women; he’ll take flattery from whoever gives it.

Krieg and Burress’ best scene, though, is a fiercely funny squabble about their marriage. Director Bob Brunner has almost choreographed the back-and-forth accusations and answers with great pace and timing.

Join the Séance in Incline Theatre’s Blithe Spirit

Review by Rachel Brandenburg of Blithe Spirit: Incline Theatre

Do you believe in ghosts? Or are mystics, mediums, and psychics simply frauds who have convinced themselves of their own power? This is the question raised in Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre’s Blithe Spirit, in the house of the Condomines, who have invited the neighbors and a psychic medium over for dinner. Charles Condomine (Matt Krieg) is an author in the midst of writing his next book, which, of course, involves a fraudulent medium, and wants to do the proper “research” by having Madame Arcati (Traci Taylor) over for visit. Ruth (Grace Eichler) is Charles’ second wife, with his first wife having died at a young age. The Bradmans (David Roth and Susan Jung) join in on Charles and Ruth’s wit and skepticism, remarking how amusing the evening will be.

The seance takes a surprising twist when Madame Arcati passes out during a trance, and soon the ghost of Elvira (Kayla Burress), Charles’ first wife, appears. Of course, with a catch: Charles is the only one who can see her. Hilarity ensues as Charles tries to explain his way out of his interactions with his increasingly-unruly house guest, and find a way to bring the hauntings to an end.

Overall, the production is clean, fast-paced, and keeps the audience’s attention (could you say… has them entranced?) All actors do a marvelous job of playing to each others’ levels, and no one character dominates the scene unless there is a strong reason to do so. Krieg captures Charles’ initial skepticism, then outright panic and helplessness at his discovery. We see a warmer, more open side of him as the night goes on. Grace Eichler gives a strong performance as she seamlessly embodies Ruth’s down-to-earth wit and intelligence, making an excellent foil to Buress’ airy, mischievous, yet somehow still lovable Elvira.

Allison Hinkel kept audiences laughing with her portrayal of Edith, the shy and frantic housemaid who can be seen at several intervals scurrying about the house. David Roth, as Dr. Bradman, is your typical doctor and gentleman, and Susan Jung, as his wife, channels her inner socialite, together making a natural pair of “skeptics,” as Madame Arcati would call them. Speaking of Madame Arcati, Traci Taylor executes the role with exuberance, energy, and a clear love for all of the medium’s quirks and eccentricities.

Costumes, by Caren Brady, help to punch up the qualities of the characters without taking away focus from the narrative. Elvira’s flowy, ethereal and yet girly gown makes her look right at home against the blue backdrop of the set, while “skeptical” characters like Ruth are most often seen in more clean-cut, practical-looking evening attire. Set design, by Brett Bowling, hits at all the luxuries and social class of the homes’ inhabitants, while also keeping a framed picture of Elvira center-stage–a haunting reminder of who’s really in charge in the home.

Blithe Spirit runs through July 23. Grab your friends, and maybe some salt or a protective amulet or two. You never know what’s lurking on the other side.

For tickets, call the box office 513-241-6550 or visit www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com

The Human Race Brings Audiences Home in the World Premiere of Family Ties

Review by Rachel Brandenburg of Family Ties: Human Race Theatre

Based on the television series of the same name, Family Ties, by Daniel Goldstein, brings a real treat to this cozy third-floor theatre. Set in 2008, about 20 years after the last episode aired, the play follows the characters as they stroll through some of their most cherished (or perhaps not-so-cherished) childhood memories. Characters watch onstage and invite the audience in like part of the family, looking on to parts of their lives played out before them. Alex, played by Jim Stanek, is now running for Congress, and preparing to have a child of his own. Stanek truly captures the well-meaning yet finicky and, at times, even self-centered heart of Alex Keaton while sharing with the audience the deep divide he feels between his career and his family.

Thea Brooks, as Mallory, opens the play strong, along with Sara Mackie, Jennifer, encapsulate the love/hate dynamic of sibling rivalries, charming the audience with witty banter and household mockery throughout the show. Maggie Lou Rader, playing Ellen, gives a genuine and romantic performance as she transforms from an angsty college artist to Alex’s loving wife. Eve Plumb is a true joy as Elyse, strong and situated as the mother and apparent backbone of the household. And Lawrence Redmond, playing Steven Keaton, sustains as the familiar and loving father figure, who, although he may disagree with his son’s politics, deeply loves and supports his family.

Set design, by Tamara L. Honesty, maximizes the realism and depth that a TV set can accomplish without losing the intimacy of the theatre. Walking into the theatre feels a bit like walking into someone’s front door.

Family Ties closes at the Human Race this weekend. If you can, I would highly recommend bringing the whole family out to see it. It is a pleasure not only for those who are familiar with the series—the audience around me couldn’t help themselves from reliving their favorite moments—but also a deeply relatable story for people of any age or walk of life. Audience members can see themselves in the familiar family narrative as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and everything in-between. I myself would like to see this play again in five, ten, even twenty years down the road and see how my relationship with it changes as I enter a new phase of my life, just how Alex himself is on the brink of such a big transformation.

For tickets go to tickets:ticketscenterstage.org.

 

Family Ties Bound To Be a Hit in for Human Race Theatre

Review by Liz Eichler of Family Ties: Human Race Theatre

The cast of “Family Ties”at Human Race Theatre

Imagine the television network pitch: liberal activist parents raising a conservative son. Comedy ensues. Would it work? Well, it worked for seven years on the CBS series Family Ties as a young Republican questioned his liberal parents’ values. It also works in Family Ties the Play.

Family Ties is a bittersweet look at raising children and growing up (both kids and parents admit to growing, up is another matter). This world premiere, fully supported by both CBS and NBC, opened June 2 in Dayton’s Human Race Theatre, and charmed the audience, much like the Emmy winning series.

The 1980’s show Family Ties was “must see TV” and America was transfixed for seven seasons with the progress of former 1960s hippies raising a politically conservative son, and two sweet and witty daughters. Focusing on the travails of Alex’s high school and college years, the theme of family first prevailed, no matter how differently they think.

Fast forward 20 years, and this play looks at the Keatons in 2008, a time of hope and change. Alex, the son, is running for senate in New York, after a successful Wall Street career. He realizes that he is embracing some of his parent’s politics, and looks forward to the possibility of the first black president. The girls are married with children, living nearby in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio.

They gather at their parent’s house to celebrate dad Steven’s 40 years managing a PBS station, and mom is there to referee. Comedy ensues, but overarching the comedy, is the heart felt connection and responsibility they have with each other: family comes first.

There is truth in this show. Clearly the playwright, Daniel Goldstein, understands the angst of living with young adults, biologically driven to push away from their parents. As they say in the play, every kid wonders if they really are related to these strangers. These conflicting tensions of wanting to be a part of something, but at the same time moving away from it, is a part of life. Here we get the perspective of the parents, and their pain and truth of living with these pre-fully adult beings, as well as the now-adult, as the play proceeds in a series of flashbacks. These times of cross purposes, conflicting needs, and sharing perspectives hit in the heart. I’d like my kids to see this character, Alex, as he finally sees the importance of passing advice from one generation to the other.

The cast delivers, both in likeness to the original characters, as well as comedy. Jim Stanek (Alex) carries the show. You will love him and his verbal and physical energy. He is a politician we would all love to see, driven for success, but with a core of humanity. Thea Brooks (Mallory) and Sara Mackie (Jennifer) are the lovable but different siblings, and flesh out their characters. (Season 5 addition, younger brother Andy, is in the Peace Corp and cannot get back for his father’s tribute.) First love, Ellen (Maggie Lou Rader), is featured in flashback, as Alex explores pivotal moments in his life which got him where he is today.

Lawrence Redmond (Steve) is both warm and formal, enthusiastic, and curious. Eve Plumb (Elyse) is the more grounded and serious parent, reeling in Steve’s idealism, while maintaining her own. She has a quieter strength and both are a joy to watch.

There are the familiar one-liners of a TV sitcom, but also a bigger message. Steven and Elyse share their struggles of parenting while “the line between helping and protecting “ isn’t always clear. Another key theme is that we parents often see ourselves as kids, still trying to figure things out, but our kids look at us as authorities. Keeping a consistent message is hard, but as long as parents are both on the same page, it is easier to manage the pushback from the children.

The set, designed by Tamara Honesty, is a perfect homage to the ‘80s with furniture and color scheme. Not much changed since the 80s, except for the KitchenAid coffee pot. Just like our parents’ house—the things that change are only the things that break.

Going into the play, I admit I was skeptical. How could the playwright and director walk the tightrope of making the show interesting and relevant? With the keen direction of Kevin Moore, the beautiful setting, and this ensemble of actors, you too will deem this “must see” theatre. If you have kids in their 20s hanging around your house—bring them, so they can see how we parents have it tough as well. Flashing back between young Alex and 30 year old Alex is a great framework to explore these differing perspectives. Sound designer Jay Brunner manages these transitions well, but occasionally the lighting could better support the time travel. A few parts of the script still need polishing (what is a restricted club and why is that bad?) but overall a great, poignant evening at the theatre.

This play continues through June 25, and is recommended. I also recommend pitching this updated version to the television networks, as the tensions between conservatives and liberals these days could really use a bit of laughs and perspective.

Incline’s Damn Yankees is Devilishly Engaging

Review by Laurel Humes of Damn Yankees: Incline Theatre

William Jackson and Rachel Perin in “Damn Yankees”

I’m still humming “You’ve Got to Have Heart,” one of the pleasures of Damn Yankees, the baseball themed musical now onstage at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

The 1955 show has historical fact – there was a Washington Senators team and the New York Yankees did dominate Major League Baseball. And baseball was truly America’s pastime.

So it’s not hard to imagine a middle-aged die-hard Senators’ fan named Joe, watching another losing game, proclaiming “I’d sell my soul for a long-ball hitter.”

But then – he does! With the added enticement that he can be transformed into the (younger) star player who will lead the Senators to the pennant.

The pact with Mr. ‘The Devil’ Applegate (Rodger Pille) is made by the older Joe (Tim Perrino) and carried out by the younger Joe (William Jackson). Indeed, the Senators do keep winning once Joe joins the team. There are a lot of unlikely plot twists from there to the happy ending.

A realistic plot, however, is not the reason 1950’s musicals are revived. It’s for the songs, the dancing and, in this show, the nostalgia. These are some reasons to see Incline Theater’s Damn Yankees:

The terrific opening number, “Six Months Out of Every Year,” when Joe’s wife Meg (a wonderful Michelle Wells) laments losing her husband to baseball from April to September. He is planted in front of the TV; she tries to have a conversation. Soon they are joined by five other couples, all the husbands in swivel rockers, tuned only to the game, all the wives trying vainly to get their attention.
Rodger Pille’s devil is dapper, in dress and manner, as he maneuvers Joe through their pact. Pille is not the center of every scene, but his face is so expressive, he could be. Reacting also is acting.
Standout number by Renee Stoltzfus as Gloria the Reporter, backed up by the Senators team, of “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.” She is an accomplished singer and dancer.
The fine voices and high energy of the young people in the cast, at least 8 of whom are just starting or in college. This includes William Jackson as young Joe, whose singing voice, acting and mannerisms belie his youth.
1950’s nostalgia, meticulously created by set designer Brett Bowling and costumer and properties designer Caren Brady.
A hometown flavor – you will hear the voices of Reds’ games broadcaster Marty Brennaman and former star Pete Rose as (not so inside joke) the baseball commissioner.
However … Damn Yankees the show is kind of creaky, repetitive and overlong – 62 years after it opened on Broadway. Still, thanks to Incline Theater for reviving it with a competent production.

Damn Yankees is part of Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ Summer Classic Series. It runs through June 18 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

 

Incline Theatre Has a Solid Hit in Damn Yankees

Review by Doug Iden of Damn Yankees: Incline Theatre

If you are disappointed about the Reds season so far, imagine being a Washington Senators fan during the 1950’s when the New York Yankees routinely drubbed the home team. This is the premise of Damn Yankees, a classic musical which is playing at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. Based upon Douglass Wallop’s “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” Damn Yankees tells the story of a middle-aged, long suffering Senators fan (an actual team at the time) who is so dispirited by the hapless Senators that he offers to sell his soul to the Devil if his team could win the American League pennant. Shazam, Mr. Applegate (the Devil, played by Rodger Pille with gleeful malevolence) strikes a deal to transform Joe Boyd (Tim Perrino) into a baseball phenom named Joe Hardy (William Jackson). However, not only did Joe bargain away his soul but he also risks losing his soulmate wife Meg (Michelle Wells) with whom he is still very much in love. However, (spoiler alert) this is a musical and, chances are, there will be a happy ending.

The show is very upbeat with a lot of music and dancing, all tied to the baseball theme. The current presentation does not hit a homer but it is a good, solid triple. There is a good transition from middle-aged Joe to young Joe when Perrino starts the song “Goodbye, Old Girl” (referring to his wife) and then Jackson finishes the song with a very strong voice. Jackson is only a sophomore at CCM but his voice and command of the stage promise a very bright future.

We immediately meet the downtrodden Senators team who try to bolster their beleaguered season by singing “Heart”. The lineup of the male ensemble includes Tyler Gau, Stephen Welch, Drew Simendinger, Nick Godfrey, Chris Carter, Cian Steele and Cameron Nailey. The ensemble also doubles as reporters and dancers in various scenes.

Joe makes an immediate impact and the team starts winning but a nosy reporter Gloria Thorpe (Renee Stoltzfus) starts inquiring about Joe’s mysterious past. How could such a phenomenal player have come out of nowhere? Applegate improvises an answer which leads to the lively production number “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.”. His background will lead to plot complications later.

But Joe is heartbroken about leaving his wife so he makes an arrangement, much to the chagrin of Applegate, to rent space in his wife’s house. There is an immediate connection when his wife senses something about young Joe. Applegate responds by enlisting his “weapon of mass destruction” named Lola (Rachel Perin) to seduce Joe and make him forget his wife. This leads to another hit song from the show, “Whatever Lola Wants”. Over time, however, Lola begins to soften her feelings about Joe and ends up helping him to thwart Applegate.

The score, written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, who previously penned The Pajama Game, is high-energy music replete with clever comedic songs such as “A Little Brains, A Little Talent”, “The Game” and “Those Were the Good Old Days” along with ballad “Near to You” sung by young Joe and his wife. The singing over all is good with highlights including Jackson and Michelle Wells. Pille, as Applegate, exudes an unctuous charisma and sings a good duet with Lola called “Two Lost Souls”. Perin, who plays Lola, tries to channel Gwen Verdon (the original Broadway actress) with reasonable success. She is a good dancer and singer and is convincing as the sexy vamp. Steve Goers leads the band as usual but the horns need a little more practice.

There is a lot of dancing in this show. I’m always interested in seeing what choreographers (Kate Stark) do with the original Bob Fosse dances. Fosse’s style is very eccentric and very difficult. It appears that Stark has combined original choreography with a touch of Fosse to overall good effect. The dancing is energetic (frenetic at times) and effectively moves the story along.

With no curtain, the Incline set designers led by Brett Bowling have perfected the art of multisided set pieces which are turned to create a new scene. Most of the scenes are the Boyd’s living room and the team’s locker room. The lighting was mostly effective although it appears they missed a lighting cue at the end of the first act.

There are a few unique sound effects by Denny Reed including the sound of a batted ball. Also, they have recorded the voices of Pete Rose (who plays a disembodied Baseball Commissioner) and Marty Brennaman doing a brief play-by-play of the fictional final season game between the Senators and the Yankees. There is also a joke told at Rose’s expense.

So lace up your cleats, grab your ball cap and glove and steal your way down to the Incline for the highly entertaining show Damn Yankees continuing through June 18.

Quickstepping through Falcon Theatre’s Master Harold… And the Boys

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Master Harold…and the Boys: Falcon Theatre

These days, ballroom dancing seems reserved for reality television shows like Dancing with the Stars—something that ordinary people do not participate in. However, learning the quickstep forms part of the basic storyline for Athol Fugard’s masterpiece Master Harold…And the Boys.

Set in South Africa Tea Room during a rainy afternoon in 1950, Master Harold discusses the trials and tribulations of Hally (Rupert Daniel Spraul), who is having problems with his alcoholic father and enabling mother. Listening to Hally’s woes are the servants in the tea room, Willie (Deondra Kamau Means) and Sam (Ken Early). Both Willie and Sam are avid ballroom dancers and are practicing for the upcoming dancing competition, much to the consternation of Hally. They are have to deal with the rules of apartheid or the strict racial segregation practices that went into effect in 1948.

This production had some of the best acting out of any of the Falcon Theatre productions this season. Director and Producer Ted Weil, fresh off of his acting success in Falcon’s Rabbit Hole, did an amazing job with his cast to produce a play that moves slowly and deliberately to its unexpected climax. Weil allows his actors to shine and find their own voices within the characters—something that each cast member does to perfection.

Spraul’s Hally was simply outstanding—both entirely believable and completely compelling to watch. Hally goes through a huge range of emotions within this short play and Spraul was able to go from being playful and nostalgic to despairing and hateful swiftly and effortlessly. A CCM Acting senior this coming academic year, Spraul is an actor to watch out for in the coming theater season. Already, he is treading the boards around town, having done a fine job in Clifton Performance Theater’s Small Engine Repair last month.

Similarly, Early’s Sam was almost like watching a master class in acting. Early is a master at how to play quiet dignity and restraint while under duress. In playing Sam, Early is deftly able to articulate the problems that Sam has in facing Hally while still maintaining his character’s dignity. It is a delicate balancing act that Early accomplishes beautifully.

Rounding out this trio of actors is Means’s portrayal of Willie. This is perhaps the most difficult role in the play to perform because Willie’s lines are mostly in the beginning and at the end of the play. In the middle, he has to play the role of the Greek Chorus listening and responding to the stories bandied about by Sam and Hally. Means does this job exceedingly well. We don’t forget that Means is there when he is not speaking, but Means serves to support the other characters as they flow in and out of different stories and memories.

In short, this was an amazing production of a play that needs to be seen by the greater Cincinnati theater-going public. It is worth the time and energy to take this ninety minute journey into the lives of these three characters. Master Harold…And the Boys only runs for one more weekend, Thursday May 18 to Saturday May 20, 2017 at the Monmouth Theater in Newport. Ticket information can be found on Falcon’s website http://falcontheater.net.

Growing up is Hard for Master Harold a Struggle Well Portrayed on Falcon’s Stage


Review by Ken Stern of Master Harold…and the Boys: Falcon Theatre

In the best of all worlds, in an ideal setting, life is hard enough for teenagers growing into maturity, reaching towards their authentic adult human self. In the real world, fathers are crippled, physically and mentally as war veterans, ruined by alcohol, and shrunken by acquiescing to apartheid. That is true for us looking in the mirror or looking at 1950 Port Elizabeth, South Africa through the lens of playwright Athol Fugard’s 1982 Tony winning play, on stage at the Falcon Theatre through May 20th.

Go see “Master Harold” . . . And the Boys for a look into the past. See it for our present moment. See it for the production and the strong performances of the ensemble cast.

The lights come up on Willie (Deondra Means) and Sam (Ken Early), impeccably dressed in white suit coats and shirts and black pants and ties, who are employees killing time in a tea room devoid of customers on a rainy afternoon. They’re long time buds, middle aged, regular Joes, Willie dreaming of a trophy in the upcoming regional dance contest. Sam helps, coaching on dance steps (“Look like you’re enjoying it.” Suffering Willie: “I wasn’t”), and advising on love and marriage: “Don’t hit your wife if you want her to be your dance partner.” There is gentle humor between these two friends, and the audience laughed on cue. These men care for each other. They have been friends for a long time.

Deondra Means’ Willie is a plain, working-class-hero type of guy. Means’ performance is as solid as the character he plays, and being human, offers a humorous dimension. He was appreciated by the audience.

Soon Hally (Rupert Spraul), enters. A high school senior, in dark blue blazer and a tie, he is the son of the tea room’s owner, an Afrikaaner, white, and also long acquainted with Willie and Sam. Listen as well as watch closely, for this play is filled more with ideas than action. The relationships are what matter.

Spraul glides in, at home in his mother’s store. He is smooth, verbally and physically agile, confident, the epitome of white privilege. Did that term exist in 1950? He is youthful, exuberant. Spraul’s performance, along with his mop of hair that he occasionally pushes off his forehead, is pitch perfect, including the accent. Credit dialect coach Kate Glasheen for so solidly placing the audience in South Africa through her work with the cast.

Getting ready for exams, drafting a writing assignment, Hally bubbles over with his classroom knowledge. He quizzes Sam on “men of magnitude,” Hally’s are thinkers, scientists: Darwin, Einstein. Hally has obviously been sharing his lessons with Sam for years. While Sam doesn’t have a formal education, he is quietly undaunted, naming Lincoln and Gandhi as men of magnitude, though Hally dismisses each’s accomplishments.

The conversation soon makes it clear that Hally has been raised as much by Willie and Sam, as Hally recounts visits to their servants’ quarters as a boy. Early’s Sam has a quiet dignity, and the solidness from knowing and trusting one’s self. Sam is a teacher and mentor as much as a father, quietly challenging and coaching Hally to consider higher, rather than lower options.

Hally’s parents, while not present, are influential characters. His mom called before the play opened, and Hally’s first question is about his dad, in the hospital, again, a war amputee and also an alcoholic. Repeated calls from mom confirm that she is bringing the father home. Her last call does more than interrupt the afternoon’s mood: Hally is transformed. Without any outward notice, Hally has made a monumental decision. While critical, and furious with his father’s physical and emotional debilitations, Hally embraces his father, and the status quo of apartheid South Africa.

He instructs Sam that from now on he is to address him as “Master Harold.” This is a direct challenge to Sam, and their close, historic relationship. Sam grasps the magnitude of the moment and quietly warns Hally “If you make me say it once, I’ll never call you anything else again.” Even as Sam challenges Hally, he works to save Hally’s humanity. A tense scene grows tenser as Hally struggles to choose between his father and his friend, the idealistic hopes of youth and the reality of 1950 South Africa.

But, good father that Sam is, he gives Hally another chance. Youth that he is, Hally is not able to grow into the moment. Changing the future starts with self-made changes. And, if any of us are not up for it, we walk away.

Sam and Willie? They entered dancing. At the end, their steps are in unison. They know the song and the dance.

Ted Weil, director, producer, lighting and set designer and constructor, Falcon’s jack of all trades, has once again superbly led and supported a production into its realization on the Falcon stage.

Performances are Thursday through Saturday through May 20th at 8:00 PM at the Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071; Box Office: 513-479-6783. For more information, go to falcontheater.net.