BWW Reviews: FADED GLORY Sparkles at North Coast Rep
It's no wonder that actor, playwright and screenwriter Tim Burns won the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award in 1974 for his first play, Faded Glory. Based on the true story of little known but uniquely fascinating Civil War Major-General Daniel Edgar Sickles, this brilliantly crafted work, which received its world premiere on Sat. May 31, at North Coast Rep, is entertaining, enlightening, and irresistible.
The playwright's witty dialogue draws in the audience and keeps them guffawing from the very first words of verbal ping-pong lobbed between the two skillfully played, empathetic protagonists until the final sweet phrases spoken between them. Burns then weaves in a cast of four additional actors, all of whom would be scene-stealers individually if not for their virtuosic ensemble work, most of them playing multiple characters. The result is a wild ride of droll turns of phrase and cynical barbs punctuated by perfectly timed comic buttons. These actors are never in danger of being six characters in search of an author: the playwright has created a seamless fabric of scintillating comic conversation and Machiavellian plot twists that keep the actors - and the audience - on their toes. The dialogue is so skillfully written and acted that I found myself longing to hear most of the lines more than once.
Heading this cluster of gifted performers was Andrew Barnicle, who has shown his multifaceted acting talents in feature films, on television and on the stage, and recently demonstrated his directing expertise helming Who Am I This Time? at North Coast Rep. As the rabble-rousing General Sickles, who created history on the battlefield and in the courtroom - he created a precedent by claiming temporary insanity to defend himself in a murder indictment - Barnicle spat his cynical lines with effortless conviction, his delivery as dry and sardonic as leaves crackling underfoot on a late autumn walk through Central Park. Surrounded as he was by vibrantly played characters, Barnicle nonetheless remained the center of interest: the sun around whom the other twinkling planets revolved.
As Barnicle's long-suffering nursemaid, confidante, confessor and caretaker Eleanor Wilmerding, Shana Wride gave Barnicle a run for his money in the attention department. Alternating between droll deadpan and acerbic sarcasm in her approach, she spun off each clever line with perfect timing, gathered and maintained momentum and empathy with every turn of phrase, and never once faltered in conveying her deep belief in herself and her fondness for and devotion to Sickles.