Life, Love, and Fireworks -OR –
Small Stage, Small Cast, BIG Story
A Theater Review by Julinda D. Lewis
At: HATTheatre, 1124 Briarwood Dr., RVA 23238
Performances: March 3-12, 2023
Ticket Prices: $25/Adults; $20/Seniors (age 62 and up), Students & Military; $15/Youth 12 and up
Info: (804) 343-6364; hattheatre.org
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Lewiston is set in a small town, placed on a small stage, in a small theatre, with a small cast, and it has a major impact. Lewiston feels familiar; it touches the heart. It tells a story that resonates with many, if not most, American families and may hit closer to home than you’d like to admit.
First, kudos to a phenomenal cast who authentically inhabited difficult characters. Boomie Pedersen, who treads the boards far less often than some of us would like, wears the heavy mantel of Alice, a grandmother estranged from her only granddaughter and landowner fighting a losing battle against well-funded corporate developers. It takes real skills to find a realistic balance between the angry, disengaged old woman and the loving matriarch. New to me are Ashley Elizabeth Thompson as the estranged granddaughter, Marnie, and Paul James as Alice’s roommate Connor, who has been fighting his own battles since childhood.
One striking thing that Connor reveals is how he never felt at home in the small town where he grew up and spent his entire life. The son of a minister, I’ll leave it to you to find out the details of his story and his disenfranchisement when you go see this beautiful play. Marnie, it turns out, is full of surprises. A backpacking loner who arrives out of nowhere, on foot, she is much more complex than she at first appears. And the more Alice and Marnie reveal, the more we see how much alike the two women really are. Connor, too, has secrets, and the three lives are more entwined than it first appears.
Samuel D. Hunter’s play is a masterpiece of storytelling. Touches of humor juxtapose heart-rending reality and revelations, interspersed with audio-taped narration provided by Marnie’s deceased mother – Alice’s daughter. Julie Fulcher-Davis, who directed with a masterful, unintrusive hand, also created one of the most organic sound scores I’ve ever heard. Ambient sounds enhance the roadside fireworks stand lovingly and authentically crafted by Vinnie Gonzalez as well as the recorded narration. Birds, footsteps crunching on leaves, the sound of the ocean waves, and more are subtly and organically orchestrated to provide clues to the location, the season, the mood.
Lewiston could be any roadside in any small town, but it is set in a real place. Lewiston, Idaho was named in honor of Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition most of us learned about in American history. The historical background and evolving economic base from agricultural to industrial are very much a part of Hunter’s story – and the stories of his characters. That makes Alice, Marnie, and Connor seem all the more real.
By the end, we are thoroughly invested in the lives of these three people. At the end, Hunter never reveals the final outcome. Does Alice sell the family land to the big developers – or does she sell it to Marnie? The financial transactions, while important, are not the focus of the story; relationships are the heart of the story. The heart is the heart of the story – and that is why it is so worth going to see Lewiston. Note: It’s a short run, so don’t procrastinate!
Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.
By Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Julie Fulcher-Davis
Alice ……………. Boomie Pedersen
Marnie ……………. Ashley Elizabeth Thompson
Connor ……………. Paul James
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Direction & Sound Design by Julie Fulcher-Davis
Set Design by Vinnie Gonzalez
Lighting Design by Lane Kinsley
Props & Lights/Sound Support;
Props & Light/Sound Support
Production Management by Vickie L. Scallion
About 90 minutes with no intermission
March 3-12, 2023
$25/Adults; $20/Seniors (age 62 and up), Students & Military; $15/Youth 12 and up
(804) 343-6364; hattheatre.org
Photos: from FaceBook
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