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Colonial Players The Violet Hour

By • Oct 28th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg
The Colonial Players
The Colonial Players Theater, Annapolis, MD
Through November 14th
$20/$15 Seniors and Students
2:15 with one intermission
Reviewed October 23rd, 2009

What would you do if you were given insight into the future? How would you feel if you thought you could change it? That is exactly the situation in which John Seavering finds himself in Richard Greenberg’s The Violet Hour. When a mysterious printing machine spewing literature from the late 20th century is delivered to his publishing house in 1919, he is faced with the overwhelming burden of foresight.

The Violet Hour, directed for The Colonial Players by Josh Bristol, was community theater that felt like a professional production. Bristol did an amazing job of making this production cohesive and engaging. Both set and props were natural and deliberate. Costumes were era appropriate and original. His actors were superb.

The Colonial Players Theater is theater-in-the-round. This distinctive style lends a sense of immediacy to the production by putting the audience in the scene. The set was cluttered without being stifling. Two desks with office chairs, short shelves, and “reams and reams of paper” on the floor decorated the set. The composition of the pieces was such that every action was visible to the audience. The 360 degree set was excellently accommodated by the actors. Blocking was well choreographed to include each quadrant of the audience.

This production made admirable use of props and set pieces. Props, gathered by Grace Bumgardner, included a large decanter and glasses, cigarettes, and “reams and reams of paper” for characters to play with. I enjoyed watching the character of Denny wheel around in an office chair set piece. Nothing gives an office a sense of realism like someone having fun with the office chairs.

The “machine,” designed by Frank Pittelli, was slightly cheesy with blinking lights and a hand printed exterior, but still very well-done. Coupled with perfectly timed sound effects executed by Anthony Junquera, Pittelli’s machine was a valuable asset to this production.

About the time I had resigned myself to a fully lit set for the duration of the show, lighting designer Harvey Hack threw me a curve ball. During an especially distressing scene, two characters move between spots on a dimly lit stage. The effect was quite striking.

Jean Beall, costume designer, did an admirable job with costumes. They did not feel like “forced” period costumes at all. I especially liked the maroon dressing coat and ladies’ dresses she created.

Acting for The Violet Hour was superb. Excellent interpretation and fantastic articulation drew the audience into the emotion of each scene. Although the show ran over two hours, there was never a dull moment. Each character was unique and genuine, which added immensely to the quality of the production.

John Seavering, played by Pat Reynolds, was a well portrayed and multi-faceted character. Reynolds’ dynamic performance was riveting and effectively drew the audience along on his character’s emotional roller-coaster.

Lolita-Marie played the part of Jesse Brewster, Seavering’s love-interest. She effectively and sharply contrasted her character’s confidence and charisma with her character’s weaknesses. Her knowledge of hair design and make-up helped to round out the authenticity of this production.

Denny, John Seavering’s old friend from Princeton, was played by Alex Vaughan. Despite my initial concern that he looked too young for his role, I was quickly won over by his stellar presentation. The straightforward and youthful animation with which he imbued his character was endearing and made his later reminiscences all the more poignant.

Denny’s love interest, Rosamund, was played by Megan Therese Rippey. She was quite lovely and played the part of a flamboyant, yet tortured heiress very well. Her vivacity was effectively controlled to reflect her character’s dramatic mood swings. She and Vaughan brought exuberance to their characters that matched and complimented each other perfectly.

The role of Gidger, played by Tom Byrne, is vital for providing comic relief during the tense moments of The Violet Hour. Byrne was at the top of his game as far as comedic timing and intonation. His natural Irish lilt was delightful and added a dimension to his character that made him more than the “average Joe” depicted in the script. I am dying to know: Is “Gidger” his first name or his last name?

While Richard Greenberg’s The Violet Hour is comparatively new literature, Josh Bristol’s interpretation helped secure it a place among the classics in my mind. Every element of this production lent to its success, whether it be set, props, sound, light, costumes, or acting. I would highly recommend this production to anyone.

I am glad that this was my introduction to this company. I will be making The Colonial Players a regular stop on my community theater circuit. I look forward to following Mr. Bristol’s career and wish him the best of fortune.

Director’s Notes

All theater is a performance of the quintessentially human ritual of storytelling. A publishing house is the perfect place to start this ritual. However, The Violet Hour is more than just the storytelling ritual, handed from generation to generation since the dawn of humanity. The show looks at the stories we tell, why we tell them, how we tell them and how they are changed and reevaluated in the forward march of time. This look at storytelling (and so many other things) is helped by Richard Greenberg’s strong grasp of lyricism, wordplay and compactness in his prose and form. When all these elements combine, we get deep, rich, intelligent people, not merely characters on a stage. The personalities portrayed have a rhythm and vitality all their own, breathed into them by Greenberg’s language and given form by the actor. -Josh Bristol

Cast

  • Gidger: Tom Byrne
  • Jesse Brewster: Lolita-Marie
  • John Pace Seavering: Pat Reynolds
  • Rosamund: Megan Therese Rippey
  • Denny: Alex C. Vaughan

Production Staff

  • Director: Josh Bristol
  • Stage Manager: Anthony Paul Junquera V
  • Producer: Bob Brewer
  • Stage Crew: Alan Perkin, Tom Stuckey
  • Set Design: Josh Bristol, Bob Brewer
  • Lead Carpenter: Dick Whaley
  • Carpenters: Lee Craft, Norm James, Jim Robinson, Ted Yablonski
  • Machine Design and Construction: Frank Pittelli
  • Floor Design/Painting: Carol Youmans
  • Set Painting: Anthony Paul Junquera V, Dottie Meggers
  • Set Decoration: Grace Bumgardner
  • Set Decoration Assistants: Bob Brewer, Angie Dey, Jo Ann Gidos, Dick Whaley
  • Skyline Design/Painting: Anthony Paul Junquera V
  • Lighting Design: Harvey Hack
  • Lighting Assistant: Alan Perkin
  • Sound Design: J.H. Morehouse
  • Sound/Light Technician: Anthony Paul Junquera V
  • Technical Coordinator: Wes Bedsworth
  • Costume Design: Jean Beall
  • Costume Assistant: Brian Blanchard
  • Properties: Grace Bumgardner
  • Hair/Makeup: Lolita-Marie
  • Rehearsal Assistant: Angie Dey
  • Play Consultant: Ron Giddings
  • Production Consultant: Bob Brewer
  • Playbill/Poster Design: Jim Gallagher
  • Photography: Colburn Images, Joe Thompson
  • Program Editor: Tom Stuckey
  • Lobby Display: Jason Vaughan, Shanon Benil, Lois Evins

Disclaimer: Colonial Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

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