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Echo Theatre Review - Two Excellent But Very Different Plays

By Serita Stevens

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Two very different types of plays have opened with The Echo Theater Company at the Atwater Theatre.   You can see both for a discounted price.

 

Row After Row - Jennifer Chambers and Iam Merrigan photo by Darrett Sanders

The first of the plays,  Row After Row, a dark comedy written by Jessica Dickey and directed by Tara Karsian, stars  Jennifer Chambers (Leah), Ian Merrigan (Cal) and John Sloan (Tom.) 

 

Row After Row - Photo by Darrett Sanders

When three Civil War present day re-enactors gather together for a drink after an exhausting replay of the Gettysburg battle, tempers flare as Leah, who played a man on the field, defends her right to do so against the chauvinist the Confederate general, Cal as time honored traditions are called into question. He is offended that she, a woman, would dare to play a man or be a participant in the "war" in a way the she would not, as a woman, been involved.  Modifying the argument, Tom - who plays a meek Union deserter - puts in his thoughts. 

 

Row After Row - Photo by Darrett Sanders

We learn that these history buffs have real lives with real jobs and real worldly worries as they struggle to forget their problems by pretending they are other people.

 

Row After Row - Jennifer Chambers, Iam Merrigan, John Sloan Photo by Darrett Sanders

The play intersperses flashbacks to the Civil War and the roles these re-enactors might have actually been.  The transition is smoothly accomplished and the authentic characters fall easily into their present and past roles, picking up the proper accents as needed. 

 

Row After Row - Photo by Darrett Sanders

Well done, well written, and well acted, the play is 80 minutes with no intermission. 

 

The second play, A Small Fire, written by award winning Adam Bock and directed in her debut direction by Alana Dietze,  is also  80 minutes.   Taking you on a whole other journey, this performance is more intimate, closer to home and more intense.

 

A Small Fire - Lily Knight Photo by Darrett Sanders

Lily Knight (Emily) a strong, hard hat construction boss, appears happily - or at least contented - in her suburban marriage to Michael Mantell (John) and the couple are preparing for their daughter's -Mackenzie Kyle (Jenny) - upcoming wedding.  Having battled sexism in her trade, Emily thinks she can overcome anything.  She doesn't count on being struck with a mysterious illness that first takes her hearing, then her other senses.  Her strength is what keeps the family together. 

 

A Small Fire - photo by Darrett Sanders

As her husband, John, grows in his role as caregiver, their daughter backs away. 

 

A Small Fire - Mackenzie Kyle and Michael Mantell , photo by Darrett Sanders

It is Billy - Emily's foreman - Steven O'Mahoney / Darrett Sanders - who helps John cope with the coming loss.

 

Lily Knight's performance of an able bodied woman plagued by tragedy and losing her independence holds up well as does Michael Mantell's husbandly considerations.  The intensity of his feelings and concern for his wife was seen in actions as well as his words. 

 

Much was made about the playwright being gay.  However, I think that any writer worth his salt would have had the same compelling characters that Adam does. 

 

A Small Fire - photo by Darrett Sanders

Set and production design for both plays was done by Amanda Knehans; lighting design was done by Matt Richter, sound by Corinne Carillo, costume by Michael Mullen and graphics were done by Elizabeth Hale.   Samantha McCann managed the stage.  Alexandria Freeman is the company manger.  Both Rebecca Eisenberg and Chris Fields produced.

 

A Small Fire - Darrett Sanders photo by Troy Blendell

Both plays run through May 31, 2015 with alternating performances on Fridays at 8 pm and Saturdays at 5 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays 4 pm and 7 pm.   Tickets are $25 for one show or you can see both for $30 and can be had by calling 310-307-3753 or the Echo Company.

 

There is limited on site parking. 

 

Published on Apr 30, 2015

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