BWW Review: NORTHSIDE HOLLOW at Urbanite Theatre

BWW Review: NORTHSIDE HOLLOW at Urbanite Theatre

Sarasota's edgy Urbanite Theatre is to theatre what Chihuahuas are to the world of canines. Tiny but mighty. Chihuahuas are said to be the smallest of breeds but after meeting one you would never know it. In their minds they can do anything. They are fearless. They know no boundaries and stand tall in a world that dwarfs them. Much like the Chihuahua, (what I am going to call their unofficial mascot), the Urbanite once again shows its big dogteeth in staging Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers' Northside Hollow.

Upon entering the theater, patrons are immediately deposited into the world of the coalminer. Rick Cannon masterfully transformed this small 66-seat, black box theatre into a dark pit of a coalmine. The audience actually walks through a darkened coal-dust shaft to take their seats, and remain in a dimly lit, smoke-filled mine throughout the production. The sound effects realistically emulate water dripping, boards creaking, crunching goal and gravel underfoot, and the imminent danger of loosening coal and debris from above. These effects make the reality of what is about to happen all too claustrophobically real.

When the drama opens after an explosion in a collapsed mine, we witness a man, Gene (David H. Littleton) who is alone and trapped and trying desperately to call out for help. Soon a young volunteer, Marshall (Christopher Joel Onken) shimmies down a rope in a nearby shaft to attempt a rescue. Marshall goes about tending to Gene's possible broken bones and assessing the damage of the ominous situation they share. They have light hearted conversations about life, likes and dislikes and find despite their age differences, they have a lot in common, including a birthday. When Marshall secures Gene enough to make him comfortable, he tries to go back through the mineshaft for assistance but falling debris stops his efforts. As the audience sees and feels the pending doom of these too men, their conversations become more antagonistic and deepen in nature and retrospect.

I won't give away the profound conversations that will make you go home thinking about of a lot of things. Nor will I reveal some of the surprises that happen in the mine that will also have you wondering. I will say the dialogue is tight and well written and something you should experience. Mr. Littleton is intense and believable as the elder miner, longing to be topside again, seeing the sun, breathing clean air and enjoying a cheeseburger. The deliveries of his lines are heartwarming and heartbreaking; humorous at times and sadly desperate in others. Mr. Onken as the inexperienced rescuer gave Marshall a compassionate side that was sweet, calming and spiritual, which offers hope to Gene, and the audience who are living this dilemma all too up close and personal.

Benevolently directed by Summer Dawn Wallace. Northside Hollow runs through March 11, 2018. For more information visit www.urbanitetheatre.com.

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From This Author Carolan Trbovich

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