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Review: TERMINUS - A Work of Great Power and Beauty

TERMINUS, now in a World Premiere engagement at The Vortex, is a new play by Gabriel Jason Dean. This intricately layered family drama is the latest chapter in Dean's cycle of plays about the Georgia working class, The Attapulgus Elegies. TERMINUS examines a family haunted by the traumas of race and class in the South both in the past and in the present. This projected seven play collection covers a twenty plus year span and chronicles the disappearance of a small mill town.

The VORTEX produced Gabriel Jason Dean's Qualities of Starlight in 2013, winning 7 B. Iden Payne Awards including Outstanding Production of a Comedy and Outstanding Original Script. Qualities of Starlight was also nominated for the David Mark Cohen New Play Award and Outstanding Production and Direction of a Drama by the Austin Critics' Table. TERMINUS reunites playwright Dean with Qualities of Starlight star Jennifer Underwood, director Rudy Ramirez, designers Ann Marie Gordon, Patrick Anthony, and Helen Parish, and producer The VORTEX for this second play about Attapulgus County, GA.

Eller says in the beginning moments of the show: "People aren't the things you know. People are the things you don't know." Eller Freeman (Jennifer Underwood) has raised her grandson, Jaybo (Jacques Colimon), in the rundown house by the railroad tracks where she grew up. The house has just been condemned. Eller's mind has begun to deteriorate, and she is haunted by the ghosts of her past who are demanding she reveal the truth about a crime that has been long buried. When people tell themselves lies long enough, they begin to become their truth. Filter those lies through the onset of dementia and you begin to have an idea of the nightmarish world that Eller inhabits.

TERMINUS is a masterful new work of great power and beauty. Everything about this production has been done right. Director Rudy Ramirez has done a great job shaping this piece and has drawn stunning performances from his cast. His staging is simultaneously bold and lyrical.

The set design by Ann Marie Gordon is marvelous. The ramshackle house becomes part of the decay of Eller's mind and through the artistry of Gordon wavers between solid and transparent throughout the production. Patrick Anthony's lighting is breathtaking especially in the memory segments. The sound design of David DeMaris does a terrific job of supporting the action.

This is a splendid cast at work here. Jennifer Underwood delivers a blistering portrayal of this woman in mental decline. Her performance is rich with nuance. She has the audience laughing one moment and crying the next. As Jaybo, Jacques Colimon is a perfect foil to Underwood. He handles the naïve aspects of his character with complete believability. Hayley Armstrong does a nice job with the character of Finch Finch and has a real chemistry with Colimon and Underwood. Samuel Grimes as Bones Boyd, Cara Spradling as Annie, Errich Petersen as Jim, Jennifer Coy as Leafy, and Matrex Kilgore as Blondie all deliver solid supporting performances. All in all, this is a tight ensemble that performs beautifully as a unit.

TERMINUS is an important new play from a playwright I believe will be heard more from in the future on a very wide scale. Don't miss this production. This is a voice rich with story that deserves a large audience.

TERMINUS by Gabriel Jason Dean.

Running time: Two Hours including one intermission.

TERMINUS, produced by The Vortex, (3823 Manor Rd, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78722) January 15 - February 6, 2016. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm. Tickets are Tickets: $10-$30.


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From This Author - Frank Benge

A Kansas native, Frank Benge has been involved in the Austin area theatre scene as a Director, Designer, Writer and Performer for the past 20 years. He holds a double BA in Theatre and English from... (read more about this author)