BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar, A Look at Indie Theatre's Movers and Shakers
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: A different kind of Christmas Carol....
It is certainly no surprise that there are very few seats left for the final performances of Dreamscape Theatre's production of In Fields Where They Lay running until January 2nd at The Hudson Guild Theatre. While many folks flock to Radio City, or go and see another company's rendition of a Christmas Carol, the Indie Community is treated to a piece that addresses a major historical event and tells a Dickensian tale filled with rich characters, high stakes, and sobering conclusions. Ricardo Perez Gonzalez takes material from the famed Christmas truce of 1914 and weaves a rich tapestry as a playwright who, as he puts it, plays "fast and loose" with history.
The show tells the story of soldiers behind the lines during the Christmas truce during World War I and introduces us to a number of distinct characters. It also calls to mind the ideas of a Christmas Carol in the sense that one solider assumes a Scrooge-like role in not participating at all in the activities of the truce while others try and coerce him. There's even a brief mention of one solider being like Tiny Tim. The tale recalls this Christmas classic, but has a much less forgiving conclusion. Making it a Christmas tale that deserves pondering as we head into a new year with our own wars to face.
Brad Raimondo's direction of this work serves as a showcase for these actors as well as his directing style. The use of carefully placed sounds executed by the actors on stage rather than coming from mixers or speakers proves to be a very effective tool for decreasing the clutter and helping the audience focus on the characters and the commitment and camaraderie amongst the actors is to be equally commended. This is a tight group who respect the style in which they are performing and throughout the piece stick with that style as if they are part of an acting squadron rather than a cast. Raimondo is to be commended for that as well. The historical accuracy in the production as well as the spot on character work is thanks to the hiring of an often under appreciated role: The Dramaturg. Michelle Phillippin has done an outstanding job of helping this cast develop vocal and movement choices so believable, the piece really feels like a trip back in time. Add to that the subtle, yet highly effective lighting choices of Wilburn Bonnell including an effect that had many convinced there was a camp fire on stage, and the spot-on Scenic design by Kacie Hultgren and it's clear that this is a show that had amazing vision.
The ensemble was so incredibly tight in this piece that it is difficult to identify too many stand out performances, but the ones that come to mind are the tough as nails demeanor of Pte Harold Dietrich played expertly by Pete Forester who only in the show's final moments shows a crack in that Scrooge-like veneer, Pte. Phillip Osbourne played with amazing heart by Carl Hendrick Louis who provides a sobering look at where his soldier's character will end up in our nation's history books, and finally Pte Theodore Jones played by Michael Swartz who more than fills the pathos created by the Tiny Tim role. Again, the entire cast is so committed that all could be mentioned in various roles quite easily and all should be very proud of the work that was put into this production.
So check here and see if you can still find seats as this carol is likely to sing it's final tune to a sold out house.
From This Author Michael Roderick