BWW Previews: THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

Rarely produced in full, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre (MET) presents the entirety of Horton Foote's nine-act Magnus Opus "The Orphans' Home Cycle" running in repertory through November 18, 2018. This massive production utilizes over 30 veteran performers from across the Metro KC area in 64 roles throughout the expansive production.

The nine short plays chronicle the lives of one man, Horace Robedaux and his extended family through his community, his relationships, and the hardships of life in the vast and the changing landscape of the country as it evolved at the turn of the century and in the years following World War I.BWW Previews: THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

Festival Part 1: The Story Of A Childhood:

"The Story of a Childhood" is the first three of nice one-act plays intended to be performed on three successive evenings.

Part 1: Act 1: ROOTS IN A PARCHED GROUND (set in 1902) tells of the death of Horace's father from alcoholism when the boy is 12 years old. Paul Horace Robedaux (the elder) is on his deathbed.

Across the street at the Thornton house, his divorced wife Corella has briefly returned. They are estranged. Corella has a new husband and a new life in Houston. Caught between the two estranged is 12 year-old Horace, a bright, curious boy looking for a place to belong. Corella's new husband has chosen not to include a male preteen in his new blended family. Corella's daughter Lilly Dale is welcome. Despite assurances from friends and family that Paul and Corella's children will be looked after, young Horace seems bound to fall through the cracks.

Part 1: Act 2: CONVICTS (set in 1904) centers on a farm where 14-year-old Horace is sent to work alongside prison inmates; . It is Christmas Eve on a convict work farm outside of Harrison, TX. It is a hard, unyielding place, ruled over by Soll Gautier, an ex-slaver with one foot in the grave. 14 year-old Horace Robedeaux struggles for survival in the face of Soll's erratic violence and against the question, what other option does he have?

Part 1: Act 3: LILY DALE (set in 1910) presents the young adult Horace, reunited with the mother who abandoned him when she remarried and moved to Houston with his younger sister. Horace Robedeaux, now aged 20, pays his mother, Corella, and younger sister, Lily Dale, a surprise visit in Houston, only to find an unenthusiastic welcome from Corella's new husband, Pete. When sudden sickness forces him to remain, Horace finds himself stuck with the family for which he has always longed but where suddenly he doesn't seem to belong.

Festival Part 2: The Story Of A Marriage

Horace has matured into a young adult. The action has moved to the small town of Harrison Texas.

Part 2: Act 1: THE WIDOW CLAIRE (set in 1912) shows us Horace's attempt to woo the title character, a beautiful young mother of two spoiled children. 1912. Claire Ratliff, a young widow with two children, has a steady stream of beaus. Among the number stands Horace Robedeaux, now aged 22, an ambitious young man with the world in front of him. As the evening wears on and the men line up to battle for her affection, Claire wavers between taking a chance on Horace or settling with one of his peers.

Part 2: Act 2: COURTSHIP (set in 1916) introduces a relationship between Horace and Elizabeth Vaughn. They fall in love over the objection of Elizabeth's wealthy parents. Scandal sweeps the streets of Harrison as news of a shotgun wedding of a neighbor incenses old and young.

In the midst of suspicion and much to her family's chagrin, Elizabeth Vaughn receives a new suitor. Horace has become a travelling salesman with perhaps questionable prospects. Rumors about the other couple unravel, She has immediately gone into labor, given birth to a still born child and died of a sudden hemorage.

Elizabeth and Horace must decide if the bold action they contemplate is worth the possible consequences and the ire of Elizabeth's parents.BWW Previews: THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

Part 2: Act 3: VALENTINE'S DAY (set in 1917) catches up with Horace and Elizabeth after a year of happy marriage. The Robedauxs and the Vaughns reconcile at the holidays on the occasion of the birth of a grandchild. Horace has proven himself a good man to his father-in law. Pregnant, estranged from her parents, and alone on Christmas Eve, Elizabeth Robedeaux hosts a group of misfits while waiting for her husband Horace to return home. An unexpected visit brings a chance at reconciliation, while the mental decline of Horace's cousin, George Tyler, reminds everyone how lucky and rare is a happy home.

Festival Part 3: The Story Of A Family:

In the final section of Horton Foote's trilogy of nine one-act plays, hero Horace Robedaux, now 27 years old, is happily married and the doting father of a baby girl.

Part 3: Act 1: 1918 centers on the flu epidemic that swept Harrison, Texas and much of the rest of America with devastating consequences as the troops returned home from the foreign war. Horace and Elizabeth lose their daughter to the epidemic.

BWW Previews: THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE at Metropolitan Ensemble TheatrePart 3: Act 2: COUSINS takes place seven years later (1925) and finds Horace, now the owner of a clothing store, and his wife Elizabeth visiting his hospitalized mother and spoiled sister in Houston amid financial pressure from the failing cotton crop. Haunted by the past, Corella Robedeaux Davenport is going into surgery for a third time.

Corella's children, Horace and Lily Dale, must negotiate care for their ailing mother while deciphering the impenetrable web of their family tree via a steady stream of "Cousins."

Family ties tighten and old wounds surface as Horace discovers a new view of what it means to be related.

Part 3: Act 3: THE DEATH OF PAPA. Elizabeth's father Henry Vaughn has passed away (set in 1928).The death of Henry sends shock waves through the extended family. Horace Robedeaux III is ten years old when the abrupt death of a patriarch shakes the Robedeax and Vaughn households.

Brother Vaughn struggles to live up to the obligations now on his shoulders while Horace III learns a lesson about loss and responsibility. The tidal shifts leave the Robedeauxs and Vaughns wondering whether or not certainty can ever be found

The final act is touching and wistful, with every character on the precipice of change-a fitting ending to a saga that intended to play like a great novel come to life.

The Orphans' Cycle performs in repertory at MET's Warwick Theater through November 18. Please check the www.metkc.org website for a schedule when each Part of the festival performs, and the curtain times. The Warwick is at 3927 Main St, Kansas City

Tickets can be ordered online at www.metkc.org or by telephone by at 816-569-3226

Photos courtesy of Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

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From This Author Alan Portner

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