BWW Review: THE QUARRY is Surreal, Charming and Deeply Touching

THE QUARRY, a new play by Greg Pierce, now in the work's second staging at Hyde Park Theatre, uses an unusual and surrealistic narrative style for what is basically a detective story to an effectively provocative effect. A series of puzzling events in the marble quarry in an unnamed town in Vermont cause Jean (Katherine Catmull), an antisocial widow, to start her own investigation. As the play begins, Jean talks about how she enjoys staring into the quarry beside her house, how the sound of the machines soothes her, and how much she misses her husband, Sammy (Ken Webster). Jean has packed up her house because she was planning to "off herself." Her reason for this is much more pragmatic than one would expect. Her reason to end her life is because she believes that every life has a "main story" and hers is complete. However, she's decided to stick around because of the mystery in the quarry...the discovery of three marble steps leading to nowhere. Jean's opening monologue only hints at what is to come. We learn the story in fragments as the other characters speak.

Jean has become a curmudgeon who pretty much distrusts everyone. Her husband Sammy died while coring apples for applesauce. She barely speaks to her daughter Clara (Jess Hughes), who is now living in Texas and who has committed what, to Jean, is the ultimate sin...becoming a Republican. When a teenaged girl goes missing during a birthday party in the quarry, Jean decides to begin her own investigation.

THE QUARRY is, at the core, storytelling that fascinates. Greg Pierce has created a terse and effectively concise script that imaginatively jumps time periods as it tells the story.

It avoids sentimentality and through his unique narrative style that is both quirky and unexpected, it is ultimately highly satisfying. Randal Pierce's incidental music, which is played on electronic keyboard during the performance by Cliff Bond, adds to the atmosphere and colors the action.

Director Ken Webster has done a terrific job with this material, staging with great economy and flow. He has managed to get some truly astonishing performances out of this cast of four, especially with those who play multiple characters. Each one of these characters is unique and clearly drawn. Don Day's lighting design is lyrical in the way it changes to support the evolving mood of the piece. Cheryl Painter has costumed this piece quite effectively as well.

Katherine Catmull is delightful as Jean. Her performance unearths both the character's superficiality and inner depth, while playing the humor of the curmudgeon. Every moment on stage rings true... which is a good thing since she never leaves the stage during the entire evening. Ken Webster delivers a wonderfully touching portrayal of long suffering yet loving husband Sammy, as well as several other characters. Jess Hughes is riveting as their bitter daughter Clara, and also gives a sweetly credible portrayal of the missing teen Leah and the crazy mystical neighbor. This young actress has an incredible range which she demonstrates throughout the evening. Chase Brewer also does a remarkable job differentiating a host of characters, including Leah's boyfriend.

In short, THE QUARRY is an exciting new piece of theatre that both entertains and gives you a lot to think about long after you've left the theatre. Do yourself a favor and check out this relatively new voice in the world of theatre who is writing pieces that I believe may be with us for some time to come.

THE QUARRY by Greg Pierce with music by Randal Pierce.

Running time: Approximately 80 Minutes with no intermission

THE QUARRY, produced by Hyde Park Theatre (511 W. 43rd St, Austin, TX, 78751) Performances through Oct. 24, 2015. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Thursdays are Pay What You Can Nights. Tickets: http://hydeparktheatre.org or call 512-479-PLAY (7529) for reservations.



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From This Author Frank Benge