By Bob Sokolsky
The drama won a Pulitzer Prize for playwright Horton Foote. And, under other circumstances, its late January opening at the Riverside Community Players theater might have generated a massive promotion campaign.
In this case, however,, the only massive thing about Foote’s “The Young Man From Atlanta” is the silence that has greeted the show’s current production. To date, it has been playing to less than capacity audiences at RCP’s small (under 200-seat) theater. But director Pat McQuillan says she has no complaints. “It’s just a busy time of year,” she declares. “There’s a lot going on.”
There’s also a lot going on with Foote’s drama, the latest in a cycle of plays he had completed prior to his death in 2009. Its main thrust is on a Houston family that has already experienced the apparent suicide of a son and is now rocked to its roots when Will Kidder, the young man’s father, is abruptly fired from a job he has held for 40 years.
A favorable local review focused upon Kidder, well played by Andrew Hagan, and the series of fiscal problems and other frustrations that descend upon him.
But McQuillan says the drama deals with more than just that. “This is not simply the story of one man,” she says. “It is an illustration of a human condition that is fascinating and the main reason I was attracted to this story.”
The drama, she points out, reaches to the same subject Foote explored in earlier productions. “He is telling us of the tragedy that can happen when we concentrate so intensely on our jobs that we neglect everything else going on around us.
“Will Kidder (portrayed by Hagan) is someone many of us can identify with these days. “But there is more to it than that. This is someone so tied to his work and such other objects as the new home he wants to build that he has lost contact with everyone about him. He never really knew his son. He has no idea of what his wife has been doing with the money he has given her over the years. And now he is
shocked to find himself in a position he can not handle.
“What is particularly frightening is that situations like these may appear in different times and settings. But they are never new and because we pay so little attention to them we are always taken by surprise.”
Assembling a cast capable of handling all this was no easy task. “I wanted people who could understand these characters,” McQuillan says. “We needed people who could look beneath the surface of their roles, to let us know how these people react and why they are doing what they do. That’s why we get together after every performance to discuss what has happened, whether there are still things we might want to do and whether we are satisfied so far with what we have done.”
And are they? McQuillan pauses briefly before answering. “I’ll give us a B,” she says.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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