BWW Review: CATF THE SECOND GIRL is a Stunning and Spirited Show
Take a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead approach to O Neill's classic Long Day's Journey Into Night, and you have Ronan Noone's fantastically crafted The Second Girl, now running at the Contemporary American Theater Festival.
Under fantastic direction from Ed Herendeen, three actors bring to life a completely different story of the Tyrone household. In The Second Girl, we witness a day in the life of the servant's quarters in the kitchen of the Tyrone's summer home in 1912. The show revolves around three minor characters (two of which are only mentioned offstage in the original) from Long Day's Journey Into Night. Irish cook, Bridget, has saved enough for her niece, Cathleen, to come join her in America and work under her in the household as "the second girl", causing familial tensions to fly between the two headstrong women, as Cathleen has a fiance anxiously awaiting her return to Ireland. At the same time, the Tyrone's chauffeur, Jack, reveals his feelings for Bridget and wants her to join him out west, asking her to leave behind both her position in the household and the only life in America she's ever known.
TEd Koch is immediately likeable and relatable as American chauffeur, Jack. Koch strikes the perfect balance as an emotionally sincere and easy going male character caught between the two strong willed female characters. His comedic timing was impeccable and Koch displayed an excellent ease and charisma onstage.
Cathryn Wake is delightfully precocious and confident as Cathleen, Bridget's niece and the high spirited younger maid. Wake was wonderfully flirtatious and vivacious as a spitfire Irish girl who dreams of becoming an actress.
As the central character, Jessica Wortham is phenomenal as Bridget, the cook and head of the domestic household. As a weathered, practical older woman whose immense guilt causes her to drink incessantly, Wortham gave a thrilling performance while portraying a down to earth character with Irish strength, presumably drawn from the salt of the earth.
Possibly the standout moment of the entire production was a scene between Wortham and Wake when Wake's character receives a letter from home. The sharp and sudden change of attitude in the scene fantastically displayed both the actresses' brilliant comedic and dramatic abilities.
The chemistry that each of the actors bring to their various pairings in individual scenes and their full ensemble scenes in phenomenal and truly highlights the difference in their character portrayals. The Second Girl features many wickedly funny and witty one-liners, and many extremely well written scenes where dramatic tensions flip instantaneously to comedic antics. The cast also did an exceptional job with their authentic Irish accents, led by dialect coach Kirsten Trump.
Subtle effects enhance the overall production. The amount of historically detailed props and set dressing in the kitchen is incredulous. The audience seemed especially impressed by a working, period appropriate stove on stage which Wortham used to actually cook eggs and bacon, which the cast members later consumed in the show. The sound throughout the theater of a constantly ticking clock further sets the scene of the Tyrone household, with excellent lighting design by Tony Galaska naturally and very realistically portraying the outdoor light coming into the kitchen at various points throughout the hectic day. The offstage voices of the Tyrone family were also a wonderful addition to help place this show within the context of Long Day's Journey Into Night.
The Second Girl continues to run as one of the five plays in rotating repertory at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. The Second Girl performances occur in the Marinoff Theater on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. The final performance occurs July 31 at 6:00 PM. For more information about the show schedule, the 2016 season or to order tickets, please visit www.catf.org.Photo Credit: CATF Media Gallery