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BWW Review: EVER IN THE GLADES at Kennedy Center

BWW Review: EVER IN THE GLADES at Kennedy Center
L-R Kori Alston, Brian Eng, Mariah Copeland, Robert Cunningham, Ryan Foreman in Ever in the Glades. Photo by Justin Barbin

Throughout theatrical history there have been many cases where the acting and physical elements of a show have hidden the woes of a bland script. Playwright Laura Schellhardt needs to thank Northwestern University's Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts profusely for taking Ever in The Glades and giving it a killer world premiere production to hide her script's inequities.

Schellhardt's story takes place on a fictional island in the Everglades and tells the stories of some of the most unsympathetic, obnoxious people you wouldn't want to meet.

For starters, we have Junker G (Bryan Eng) a slacker who loves to play his guitar and doesn't do much else. There's Z (Kori Alston) who has just returned from Juvenile Detention and his brother Ames (Ryan Foreman) who is still dealing with his dad's death at the hands of a gator in. We think it was a total accident, but the whole story comes clear later on.

The adults aren't any better. We have the churchy parents (Amira Danan and Alex Quiñones) whose son Elijah (Robert Cunningham) is the model Christian. The couple runs their own church. At one point when Elijah and Ames form a friendship and the mother walks in on them in an "awkward" moment. They immediately assume he is gay. They never come right out and say it though, which in this day and age is a poor writing choice. Saying "He's like that" is 1970's terminology.

There is also a young teen named Delia (Mariah Copeland) who eventually becomes Ames' love interest.

The main question is if Z can get a boat and rescue the teenagers off the island even though it isn't clear as to how they got there in the first place. If it is in the script, I missed it.

Schellhardt's story is good enough, but her dialogue is stilted much of the time. Ultimately you don't come out caring about any one.

Ever in the Glades is presented by Northwestern University's Theatre Department, which is one of the finest in the country. All of the physical elements are first rate and almost all of them were done by the students.

Assistant Professor of set design Andrew Boyce gave us one heck of a set. The main set piece is a dock-like structure and the furniture pieces are moved onto said dock to create all of the locations.

Third year M.F.A. candidate in costume design Amanda Rabito's costumes are grungy and really give the idea that these folks been have out in the glades for far longer than humans should be.

Third year M.F.A stage design student Jessica Neill uses haze and fog to full advantage in her fantastic lighting design as she creates a swamp-like atmosphere.

Stephen Ptacek's sound design makes you want to swap mosquitoes off - meaning that, at least sonically, you really feel that you are in a murky kind of place. Noah LaPook's original music adds to your listening pleasure.

Co- directors Allie Woodson and Rives Collins generate some wonderful performances out of every one of their cast members making it a true ensemble experience.

BWW Review: EVER IN THE GLADES at Kennedy Center
Robert Cunningham in Ever in the Glades. Photo by Justin Barbin.

I had two favorites, however. Robert Cunningham, a senior film major (screen acting) with minors in theater and sociology, plays the good son Elijah. His performance would make any parent proud. Ryan Foreman, a second-year theater major in the musical theater certificate program, gives a strong performance as Ames, a young man looking for answers and some closure regarding his father's death.

Ultimately the playwright had all of this talent working to put her script up on stage and failed them by, in my opinion, not giving them strongly written material. I recommend Ever in the Glades for the production and onstage talent associated with it, but if want a good script as well for a totally satisfying theatrical experience, you might be disappointed.

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.

Ever in the Glades runs through June 10, 2018 in the Family Theater at the Kennedy Center, which is located at 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC.

For tickets, click here.

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