Sunday, June 16, 2013

On Stage: Reunion in Bartersville (2013)

In 1985, Celeste Bedford Walker wrote "Reunion in Bartersville", a two-act comedy-mystery set a couple of years prior, as the survivors of a small town high school's 1933 graduating class gather for a reunion. And the fact that there are five surviving alumni pretty much tells you how small the town was.

Nearly 30 years later, a start-up theatre group, Soul Rebel Performance Troupe, chose "Reunion" as their initial production in their new home, Waterviliet's Jermain Presbyterian Church, where the production closes today.

The entire play is set in the home of Janie Mae Hopper (Barbara Howard), a retired school teacher, whose father was the school principal. Janie is an excitable type, but at the same time, she worries about how things will turn out. Pollina (Rebekah Brisbane) has become a cougar whose latest husband is 40 years her junior. Cous, hard of hearing and loose of lips, is a touchstone for much of the humor, brilliantly played by Colwyn Allen. Perry (Jean-Remy Monnay, who also directed) is an out of work actor with familiar issues, and brings his latest wife with him to the party. Rounding out this odd group, and late to the party, is A. J. Hamm (Alphonso Boyd), who takes over the show in the 2nd act. Hamm had supposedly died in prison, convicted of a crime he never committed, and while he's got murder on his mind, Hamm is also looking for the real killer. Not exactly a heart-of-gold type, but, well............!

Suffice to say, Hamm gets the answer he's looking for, with the most unlikely of suspects stepping forward. The twist, in that regard, is stunning and tragic at the same time.

Albany Times-Union critic Steve Barnes, who should know better, wasn't kind to the cast, having reviewed "Reunion" the first night. A week later, everyone is more polished and on point. Jonathan Campbell, a novice as an actor, acquits himself very well, to the point where you'd swear he'd had at least 5 years or better experience. Soul Rebel will return with another production in the same venue, sometime in September, and could benefit from getting some assistance from other theatre groups in mounting future productions.

Rating: A.

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