BWW Reviews: SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, Not Your Usual Play
An anthology is a collection of stories with a connecting theme-subject, period, style, etc. They usually allow the reader to sample a wide variety of writing styles without committing to a novel. In that vein, Edgar Lee Masters' SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, allows the audience to sample a variety of stories about the residents of Spoon River. These stories twist and tell the story of the town in a sort of diary form without committing to a central plot about a few characters like you would in a normal play. Add to that the addition of musicians on-stage who play guitar and banjo providing musical interludes for the actors, audiences are treated to a unique experience in a traditional theater setting.
This is apparent it was going to be "outside of the norm" when you walk in and see the set/scenic design. The back wall has a wonderful mural painted by the talented Kim Sherman-Labrum & Alyssa Hautala (uncredited). It is framed by two trees and a scrim (depending on the lighting you can see through it). The set was black. Black cubes, black benches and the cast sat on stage and walked to the front to tell us their stories
While the original story, published in 1915, contained over 244 poems/entries, this adaptation has been culled down to a much tighter amount with 18 actors portraying the various monologues. It was delightful to see many new faces as well as many faces who have not been seen on stage in a while. The actors tell a mixture of stories-from the comic to the tragic and back again. I was entertained by variety offered and seeing the actors, both familiar and new, perform.
I was especially impressed with the adeptness of the light board operator. The show has a heavy load of light cues, especially considering what we normally see in these settings. Harmony Soto grew up in the theatre and has been a member of the Stage Coach family for a few years learning all she can and she displays this with her board work that she has learned so well.
Joseph Wright chose to do this play, and has wanted to do it for many years. It is obvious that he has given a great deal of thought to each component-the lights, music, costumes, set and actors. It is a break from the "normal" plays that happen around town and the stories of rural "Spoon River" can be nostalgic for those who grew up in rural Idaho.