by Anthony Chase
JOE HILL’S LAST WILL
Joe Hill’s Last Will reunites audiences with an often forgotten episode from American history, the 1915 execution of Swedish immigrant and union activist Joe Hill for a crime he did not commit. In this Subversive Theatre Collective production of the play by Si Kahn, John Profeta plays Hill, who talks to the audience about his life from his Utah prison cell in the final hours before he faces a firing squad.
The subject may sound grim, but Hill’s consummate optimism, and Profeta’s charismatic performance propel us through this fascinating (if disturbing) tale, aided by the actor’s impressive performance of nearly 20 musical numbers. Hill was a celebrated writer of songs, written to advance the Industrial Workers of the World.
Jeffrey Coyle has directed this economical and entirely pleasing production. Kathleen Godwin provides additional music, vocal harmonies, and even portrays a character at one point.
This weekend should be the ideal occasion to see the show, as its creator, Si Kahn, will be visiting Buffalo from his North Carolina home to attend the performances on Friday and Saturday, November 13th and 14th, and will take part in post-show discussions. On Saturday, Kahn will also perform a pre-show concert of his own folk music, entitled Songs of Family, Community, Peace, Work, and Freedom at 7pm.
Joe Hill’s Last Will is amiable and engaging. At the same time it is definitely sobering, both in terms of the injustice it portrays and in the story’s continued relevance. It’s very well done and certainly worth a visit.
John Patrick Shanley, who wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck and the play Doubt, has a romantic streak and a partiality for life’s peculiar twists. In Outside Mullingar we meet Anthony Reilly, a young man who does not seem to be able to connect to others, and Rosemary Muldoon, the girl next door who is determined to marry him. This outcome seems both unlikely and inevitable. A deal made by their fathers has permanently separated the Reilly farm from access to the road, grudges are held on both sides and Rosemary is not budging.
I guess you can see where this is going.
Under the direction of Fortunato Pezzimenti, the Irish Classical Theatre Company production is buoyed aloft by the entirely charming performances of Patrick Moltane and Kate LoConti as Tony and Rosemary. Equally fine are Pamela Rose Mangus as Rosemary’s hardboiled mother; and Guy Wagner as Tony’s ornery and manipulative dad.
David Dwyer has designed the set for this handsome production, with costumes by Jessica Wegrzyn, light by Brian Cavanagh, and sound by Tom Makar.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play, Appropriate, shows the familiar scene of siblings reunited to divide the estate of a family patriarch. The wrinkle here is that the estate is a Southern Plantation, and an inventory of the old man’s stuff reveals that he might well have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Let the dysfunction kick into gear!
With echoes of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, there’s guilt and recrimination in abundance for this able cast, directed by Scott Behrend, to indulge.
The women here are especially strong: Kelsey Mogensen as “River Rayner,” the young girlfriend of the brother who arrives in the night, Sam Shepard Buried Child style to reconnect with the home of his youth. Lisa Ludwig plays Toni, the embittered older sister who cannot reconcile herself to new revelations or old injuries. Lisa Vitrano is the strident and inflexible wife of brother “Bo.” Each is marvelous, by turns hilarious and affecting.
Renee Landrigan and Dan Urtz give compelling performances as cousins who form a bond despite the hostility in the generation above them.
Aaron Krygier and David Mitchell play the long suffering men of the clan (as opposed to klan). Simon Mysliwy is adorably perfect as young Ainsley.
Like the playwrights named above, who have clearly inspired him, Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins can certainly spin a yarn. Appropriate is great fun.blog comments powered by Disqus
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