Sunday, August 4, 2013

Red Door: "See Rock City"

On a compact unit set depicting the front porch of a rural 1940s Kentucky house complete with a period appropriate green-painted glider and metal chairs, director Tom Salter's sensitive production of See Rock City takes the stage at the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs.

With an ensemble of four experienced actors at his disposal, Mr. Salter takes an unremarkable script and imbues it with a sense of urgency that connects the time in American history that changed the country critically with today.

It is 1944 at the start of the play, and Raleigh [Joseph Crawford] and May [Eve Harmon] return from their honeymoon in Rock City, TN to live with May's parents while she takes up a job as principal at a local school. Raleigh suffers from epilepsy (though one would never suspect it) and can therefore neither serve in the army during World War II -- a constant source of friction with the local townspeople and with his mother Mrs. Brummett [Beth Egan] who sees him as a slacker and denies there is anything otherwise wrong with him -- nor can he hold a traditional job while writing stories that bring in some money on their occasional publication. May's mother Mrs. Gill [Kim Graham] offers gentle encouragement and homespun wisdom, serving as a kind of mediator when the couple's concerns with jobs, money, the war, and starting a family threaten to split them apart, especially when in Act II, May loses her position so returning war heroes can have jobs.

The story comes with several predictable outcomes, but the acting company does credit to its occasional sentimentalized aspects and rises above the one-note characterizations by breathing substantial credibility to the text, leaving audiences accepting of the relationships and understanding the difficulties confronting them: the unfairness of a society that does not see women as equals, people in various stages of denial, the devastating effects of war on the home front, the fear of personal and professional rejection, traditional roles of men and women in conflict with the realities of life. -- And through it all, the script affords the acting company many opportunities to face these obstacles with humor and acceptance.

Despite some lengthy scene changes and an unwaveringly steady pace (especially in a number of prolonged scenes that cry out for editing), See Rock City's actors touch our hearts with their honest depictions, and make us realize that the simple things that mold us -- home, family, love -- are the universals that give value to our lives.