If you just want to sit back with your legs sprawled, your teeth out, and your hat off (to allow the nits to hatch freely), then mosey on over to The Hub Theatre Company of Boston's production of Romulus Linney’s Sand Mountain; a delightful two act play set in the Tennessee Appalachian region, where the first act has nothing to do with the second act.
Act one features a (desirable?) young widow named Rebecca who spends her day making tea and cross-examining three potential husbands: a vain hick (Clink), a pompous geezer (Slate) and a bible thumping windbag (Radley). Desperate to find a respectable mate, Rebecca reaches out to an elderly wise woman named Lottie who strongly advises her to strike below the belt – figuratively of course. And when Rebecca does as instructed, the suitors all run shrieking from her private sitting/interrogation room. Thankfully though, Rebecca is then rewarded with a sexy young widower named Sam Bean who has a mind of his own and who gives as good as he gets. They’re a perfect match.
Act two features The Lord and Saint Peter who refuse the hospitality of an affluent farmer and, instead, pay a visit to a poor unmarried mountain couple and their fourteen children – or, alternatively, two dirt bags and their brood of stink pickles. The Lord demonstrates compassion and Saint Peter practices patience while these gutter rats dance about and swap tall tales. The act climaxes (and so did I) with the whirlwind retelling of the story of Joseph and Mary, which puts The Lord in such a state of joy that he gifts his hosts a washtub filled with an unending supply of craptastic textiles – one of which I admittedly pilfered to wipe myself off with after the show.
All of the actors in Sand Mountain do double duty, but only one does double doodie:
Lauren Elias, as Rebecca, was absolutely convincing as a fussy young Jewish woman endeavoring an Appalachian accent in a desperate attempt to find love in a small backwoods town. And her performance as Jean in act two was downright uncivilized. Bill Salem, first as Slate Foley and then later as Jack, was incredibly successful at playing this both times.
Ann Carpenter was delightfully elderly, both as Lottie Stiles and, subsequently, as Sang Picker. Her accent was authentic, consistent and clear, which made me wonder if perhaps some of the other actors onstage were unable to understand her. Olev Aleksander, as Sam Bean and as Prosper Valley Farmer respectively, brought a great deal of West Coast professionalism to his portrayals, which made him stand out like a high IQ on a right wing republican.
Yoni Bronstein, the show’s class clown, was hilarious both as Clink Williams and as Saint Peter. My only criticism is that his performance was real smart which seemed to be, ironically, a dumb choice for this particular production. Young Connor Upton, as Vester Stiles in act one and Fourteen Children in act two showed great range or, perhaps sadly, signs of schizophrenia.
And kudos to Robert Orzalli for showing up and delivering his lines. I especially enjoyed his heavy squinting and vacant smiles. Superb work.
Special praise to director, Daniel Bourque, who successfully herded the actors in to a straight line for most of the play. And well done to sound designer, Jason E. Weber, who nearly eliminated the dialogue in act two.
If you’re looking for a distinctive and heartfelt Holiday show, check out the replay of The Sound of Music Live starring country music mannequin, Carrie Underwood. Otherwise, grab your tickets for this offbeat and charming nugget. Only three performances left.