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Review: Cast Provides Energy to ‘Stonewall’s Bust’

July 26, 2008

By Alice T. Carter, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 26–The winner of the 2007 Mountain Playhouse International Comedy Playwriting Contest began its world premiere run this week.

Written by John Morogiello, “Stonewall’s Bust” is an often-funny farce that is a light and silly romp about the perils and pitfalls of telling the truth and inventing lies.

It’s set somewhere in the deep, deep South where Liddy, a genteel Southern lady, supports herself and her pre-Civil War mansion by giving tours of the house.

The home’s chief attraction is a bust of Stonewall Jackson, whose presence is credited with saving the house from being destroyed by Gen. Sherman’s troops.

When Liddy’s daughter, Nancy, returns home with her Yankee boyfriend who is a professional skeptic and debunker of myths, legends and scams, trouble is bound to ensue.

After being forbidden to defile the bust by laying his Yankee fingers on the head of Jackson, Paul accidentally knocks it over and it shatters.

Weighing the equation of truth or consequences, Paul finds himself telling his first lie, which — this being a farce — leads him down the path to ever more elaborate lies and cover-up strategies. Eventually, he finds himself bargaining with a self-promoting televangelist to perform an exorcism to keep the mansion museum from being stormed by angry townspeople.

Much of the show’s humor depends on stereotypical small-town characters who include a by-the-book police officer, the local newspaper’s overly ambitious reporter of small-town news, and a platitude-spouting born-again Christian.

Morogiello’s script could benefit from streamlining.

Bathsheba’s repetitive “praise Jesus” rhetoric becomes tedious, as do Liddy’s problems with hearing and hearing-aids.

Farces require abundant entrance and exit points and Kristin Gdula’s scenic designs solve most of the show’s logistical problems. But the living room in which the play is set looks far more like one in a modest contemporary suburban tract home than an antebellum mansion.

The cast of eight plays their roles with great energy and commitment, as well as an overabundance of back-biting and insults applied with a deceptive gloss of Southern gentility and solicitude.

Frederic Heringes creates Slab as the quintessential small-town cop.

Eliza Chetlin’s Kim and Seana Hollingsworth’s Nancy strike the right note of disdain disguised as solicitude as the two spat over the men in their lives.

Susan J. Jacks is best when displaying Bathsheba’s true nature.

Robert Rokicki’s Paul is properly hapless and conflicted, and Kippy Goldfarb’s Liddy looks the part of a Southern matron.

Nick Ruggeri nails the role of Earl, the televangelist, looking and sounding like a professionally pious Bill O’Reilly. Matt Marafino plays his cameraman with seen-it-all detachment.

While a happy resolution never is in doubt, Morogiello and the cast do have fun with engineering that outcome.

September celebration

William S. E. Coleman’s “One Golden Moment” has won the 2008 Mountain Playhouse International Comedy Playwriting Contest.

A romantic comedy, “One Golden Moment” tells the tale of an island native who sparks a romance between a workaholic American and a free-spirited Austrian backpacker.

The play’s inspiration began when Coleman and his wife visited Greece to research production methods of the Greek National Theatre at the Ancient Theatre of Epidauros.

Coleman, 82, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, but grew up near New Kensington and earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in theater history and dramatic criticism.

Mountain Playhouse will present Coleman with the $3,000 cash prize and Grindstone award in a celebration at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at Mountain Playhouse. included in the celebration will be a reading of “One Golden Moment, followed by a reception at Green Gables Restaurant. The event is free.

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