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By Joyce Peng
The last production by The Elephant Theatre Company at the Lillian Theatre, The Great Divide, depicts the tumultuous atmosphere within a family torn apart by the mother’s death, the father’s enormous and boisterous presence in the household, one son’s 10-year-long disappearance, and another son’s reclusiveness.
After hearing of his father’s death, Colman (Adam Haas Hunter) comes back home to Fishtown, Pennsylvania, to grieve with his brother, Dale (Brandon Bales). But then, his father is miraculously resurrected and two friends from his past pay Colman a visit, thus forcing Colman to question his beliefs about himself and his family. Written by Lyle Kessler and directed by David Fofi, this dark comedy vividly captures both the fights within families and the importance of families.
One of the strongest aspects of this play is the characters’ interactions with each other. The Old Man’s (Richard Chaves) family-oriented, optimistic personality clashes with the rebellious and adventurous Colman. Colman also fights with Dale, whose polite and down-to-earth personality contrasts his brother. Both interactions stimulate engaging, suspenseful, and humorous scenes that give audiences a feel of the family members’ chaotic relationships with each other. Colman’s friends, Noah (Mark McClain Wilson) and Lane (played by the alternating Kimberly Alexander and Kate Huffman), further bring their own personalities into the dynamic.
All five actors fully and effectively convey their characters. Wilson’s loud and harsh voice matches Noah’s brash and hardcore personality, Hunter’s sarcastic tone is a perfect fit for the defiant Colman, and Huffman’s soft and dreamy voice conveys Lane’s idealistic persona. An especially defining acting moment is Colman coming home drunk. All the signs of drunkenness: the staggering steps, the loud, random shouting, the constant need for alcohol, is portrayed authentically and comically by Hunter, thus giving the audience a striking image of a man struggling to face reality. Chaves plays the Old Man extremely well. His delivery of comical, exaggerated lines and his depiction of sheer determination to keep his character’s family together are both fun to watch. The arguments between Colman and Dale are captivating, because both actors pour all of their character’s strongest emotions into the scenes.
The technical aspects match the superior quality of the acting. The colorful, detailed living room set gives off a homely and cozy feeling that hilariously contrasts the apprehensive family atmosphere. Baseball artifacts and memorabilia, such as a baseball lamp, a team photo, and a sticker that says, “Eat, Sleep, Play Ball”, decorate the set and depict the Old Man’s devotion to baseball. The costumes match the characters, for example, Colman wears cargo pants and hiking boots to match his adventurous personality, while Noah dons a hoodie and spike gloves to signify his criminal nature. The Irish lullaby sung by Margaret Ladd adds a mystical, ethereal, and serious element to an otherwise realistic and humorous story.
Overall, The Great Divide is a powerful and entertaining play. It offers touching moments, great fight scenes, outstanding lines and hilarious interactions among the characters. Although it contains a somewhat slow beginning and an ending that seems to throw many things at the audience at once, the general work executes the story’s themes and morals effectively. This is a must see for all types of audiences, but especially baseball aficionados. Yet, do not bring the kids: there’s lots of cursing, sexual references, and a scene where a character is actually smoking a cigarette.
The Great Divide runs till Aug. 29 at the Lillian Theatre, 1036 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. The production runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets costs $25. You can purchase them at www.plays411.net/divide or by calling (323) 960-4429.