In the Gloaming
By Alice Elliot Dark and Will Scheffer
Adapted and Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin Scarlat
Starring Justin Scarlat and Vicki Burns
Breakthrough Theater, Winter Park, FL
County Music is great – whatever disaster befalls you, there’s a song out there that covers your case exactly. You could even assemble enough material for a comprehensive drama if you choose your songs carefully. Even though this story is set in an ill-defined North Eastern town, we’ve got the Dixie Chicks to remind us there is no escaping the pain of life, except though harmony and a pedal steel guitar. Danny (Scarlat) is back home after a stint on the left coast and he’s very ill. In fact, he’s returned home to die and like all good tragic deaths, we know the inevitable as soon as we see him. His mother Janet (Burns) is thrilled; his father Martin (Wade Hair) less so. It’s not exactly a falling out, but Danny’s live in boyfriend Richard (Keith Newhouse) is still a bit much for dear old daddy. As Danny weakens and fades away, he rebuffs everyone except mom and once it’s too, too late, Martin cries out in anguish: “Tell me what else my son liked!”
While the story is a bit thumb nailed in places, it’s a heart wrenching window into a family that ignores what it doesn’t want to hear until it’s too late to hear anything. As Danny’s illness progresses, he moves gracefully from slight limp to hospital bed with a smoldering sullenness and increasingly creepy skin discolorations. Mom keeps up her false cheerfulness, she wanted to be the perfect wife and mother and dammit, she’s going down with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. Author Hair spends most of his time backstage, he’s got some lawyerly professional work to hide behind, but when he comes out to watch his son die its heart breaking. The Dixie Chicks are an interesting choice for the music, their more known for their upbeat lyrics but all the songs were well chosen. My fav was “Landslide” sung as a duet by Hair and Burns, and while technically is a Fleetwood Mac song, the Chicks have covered it and I was happy to hear it. Other noteworthy number were “Forgive and Forget” by Ms. Burns, Richard’s “More Love” and Burns’ “Take Me Away Cowboy.”
Like most musicals, this show wears its heart on its sleeve but that’s OK, it’s a lovely heart. The story build slowly, you can guess what’s going on fairly early but the real disease is never plainly stated, it just lurks like a shark under the water. This is a great piece of writing and a great piece of Performance Rights clearance, and maybe, just maybe you should bring a hanky.
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