Entertainment » Theatre

Spoon River: The Cemetary on the Hill

by Michelle  Sandoval
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 20, 2015
David Aaron (l.), Rachel Geis and Amanda McManus
David Aaron (l.), Rachel Geis and Amanda McManus  (Source:David Nott)

I have often wondered what goes on in cemeteries when the moon is at its highest. So many memories and emotions surrounding the remains of lost loved ones, that among the beautiful epitaphs and cold, grey headstones, must linger some kind of energy. The Eclectic Company Theatre offers a window into this mysterious world with their latest production, "Spoon River: The Cemetery on the Hill," where the dead rise, and share their secrets with the living.

Adapted from an anthology of poetry by Edgar Lee Masters, writer and director Maureen Lucy O'Connell blends the poet's words with traditional songs to create a show that will tug at your heartstrings as much as it will give you goosebumps. You will meet well over 50 spirits at every show, from all walks of life, dating as far back as the nineteenth century. Each is unique in his own way and their stories vary tremendously, the impact however is the same -- powerful and sharp, and utterly bewitching.

Upon arrival you will given a program with a long insert tucked inside. This will include a list of the characters you will meet during the performance, all played by five talented actors. If you do the math, each person will have to take on over ten different personas in the 90-minute show, all from numerous time periods, social classes and situations. The dead are played by a total of five actors, all as fascinating as the myriad of characters they play.

A standout was the fantastic Mary Steward, who played anything from a multiple murdering wife, to a heart-wrenching widow. She expressed so much passion with each individual character that she managed to make you fall in love with her over and over again.

JC Henning stole the stage with each and every musical number with her beautifully melodic voice. Incorporating traditional songs to introduce every different break in historical history was perhaps a bit lost in transition, but having Henning deliver the music was not. She offered the perfect grace necessary to honor the dead who are so longing for their voices to be heard.

Not all is sorrowful in Spoon River, and for that we have Steven B. Green to thank. His myriad of characters demands so many impressions that you won't mind if some are a bit off. It will all add to the geniality of the material, the complexity of each story as prevalent as the much-needed comedic effect. Viewers will look for his next portrayal, charming in every way, to say the least.

The show is hauntingly beautiful. It will give you the chills, but in a good way, because you will be given a special insight into the life of a very passionate spirit. A spirit that was once a real, complicated person, one who was too shy to share such secrets with you.

"Spoon River: The Cemetery On The Hill" offers us a lesson on the importance on our time here, the legacy we leave behind and the importance of impact on those we leave behind.

"Spoon River: The Cemetery on the Hill" runs through April 12 at The Eclectic Theatre Company, 5312 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Valley Village. For tickets or information, call 818-508-3003 or visit www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.


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