Directed by Jenn Thompson
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
Referencing the word “Abundance” in the dictionary, several meanings appear, including ‘an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply,’ ‘overflowing fullness,’ and affluence or wealth,’ which all diligently support the aptly titled Beth Henley epic play. The current revival of this important work by TACT, now occupying the Beckett Theater, closely examines the plight of two brave, unrelated, young women in the 1860s moving out west to find a new life and conquer dreams of love, wealth and prosperity. It is a tale of survival, human instinct, intelligence and courage that proves there will always be an abundance present, whether it be love or lust, wealth or poverty, happiness or complacency, kindness or cruelty, feast or famine and that it will continually be prevalent. The focus is survival, the means to survive, and what human nature will sacrifice, endure and invent in order to achieve what it imagines will be happiness. The struggle of these two dissimilar women, sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, over the course of 25 years echoes one of the first lines of Macon Hill, played with refined bravura by Kelly McAndrew, delivered to her counterpart Bess Johnson, played coyly by Tracy Middendorf upon meeting: “you’re like me.” While the confident, strong willed Macon is determined and with a plan, the shy, introverted Bess eventually reiterates the phrase she learned from her friend earlier ”I’d rip the wings off an angel if I thought they’d help me fly” as she seeks revenge and gains the upper hand.
These two women are plagued with their mail order husbands, the one eyed Will Curtis, played as a simple soul with integrity by Ted Koch, and Jack Flan, the unintended husband taking the place of his dead brother, played with utter contempt and disdain by Todd Lawson. The cast is rounded out by Jeff Talbott creating Professor Elmore Crome, an unobtrusive character with sincere intention. The cast works well together as an ensemble and works confidently to overcome any stereotypes. It is to their credit that the humorous rhetoric composed by Ms. Henley is delivered in a manner in which it contributes to the honest observation of the human condition and exposes the tragic situation at hand. The humor is candid, the sadness is remorseful but it is the resilience of these two women that continues to drive the plot, overcome the obstacles and create characters that define a feminist voice of this revered American playwright.
Under the astute direction of Jenn Thompson, played on the incredibly inventive set of Wilson Chin with detailed atmospheric lighting by Philip Rosenberg, the audience is given a first rate production of an underserved work. This interpretation is current in its thinking and extremely relevant to the feministic struggle that exists over a century later in today’s society. This production should not be overlooked.