Providence Players Big Tree FallsBy Michael Clark • Jun 9th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
James Lee Community Center Theater, Falls Church, Virginia
Through June 12
2:15 with one intermission
$15/$12 Seniors and Students
Reviewed May 29, 2010
If you’re a small community theater in one of the most active theater regions in the United States, should you put on a proven, time tested, audience-pleasing (read money-making) play, or should you produce a never produced play written by one of your members? The Providence Players took a gamble by choosing the latter route when building their 2009-2010 season, with Bill Vander Clute’s comedy Big Tree Falls closing the season.
Big Tree Falls is a story about the quirky and earnest staff at a Vermont radio station, while juggling personal lives. Disc jockey Ray (Michael Donahue) is trying to wade back into the dating scene after his marriage collapses; station manager Barney (Larry Craven) is trying to keep the station alive through financial problems, station employees Jim (Jimmy Gertzog) and Angela (Laura Fischer) disagree on telling the station staff about their relationship.
Bill Vander Clute has written an interesting and humorous show. Unfortunately though, it felt as if it was actually two different shows with the same cast of characters. Ray’s dating travails could have been their own complete comedy, while the adventures taking place at WOMG I wished had been explored a bit more fully. I would love to know what happens later with the radio station. The restaurant scenes, while quite funny, could have been addressed at WOMG as a minor point in the story, giving more time to flesh out the relationship between the station and the development corporation as well as allowing more focus to be placed on Ray and Larkin. Jim and Angela’s relationship also could have allowed for more humorous moments as their relationship grows.
Michael Donahue was very believable as the heart-broken disc jockey. His ability to change gears quickly from frustrated man to focused crusader was splendid. His scenes with Larkin (Sara Bennett) were interesting, and the slow speed at which their relationship developed was entirely appropriate within the storylines of Big Tree Falls. Also enjoyable were Jayne L. Victor as quirky secretary Gina, David Crowley as the annoying waiter trying to be helpful, and John Coscia as a (former) hippie now a disc jockey.
John Coscia’s set design was a little cramped, with three doorways extremely close together on one side; but made great use of the stage to include a glass-enclosed broadcast booth. The French restaurant was shoehorned into a stage doorway with a raised platform. The station office itself though wasn’t quite cluttered enough with newspapers and magazines, especially for a tiny non-profit station that isn’t using computers at all, even for on air commercials, instead relying on splicing tape together.
Overall, Big Tree Falls was enjoyable. And the Providence Players should be commended for trying new things. Big Tree Falls is playing for one more weekend, Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30, at the James Lee Community Center Theater, in Falls Church, Virginia.
It is an honor and privilege to work with Bill Vander Clute on his new work, Big Tree Falls. From the day I read the first draft, I knew it would be something special. Since then, we pent a lot of time in a collaborative process that melded bill’s vision, a director’s interpretation and the creative work of a very talented group of actors. I hope that many theaters discover and choose to do this imaginative addition to the American Theater’s list of new works. We hope you enjoy the production as much as we enjoyed working on it.
Photos by Chip Gertzog for the Providence Players.
- Ray: Michael Donahue
- Barney: Larry Craven
- Jim: Jimmy Gertzog
- Angela: Laura Fischer
- Frieda: Joanne Fuchs
- Gina: Jayne L. Victor
- Red: Bill Vander Clute
- Oscar: John Coscia
- Waiter: David Crowley
- Amber: Erin Finucane
- Larkin: Sara Bennett
- Sherri: Addie Storvik
- Ronald: Richard Vann
- Olive: Beth Hughes-Brown
- Donna: Audrey Suarez
- Director: David Whitehead
- Assistant Director: Beth Hughes-Brown
- Producer: Janet Bartelmay
- Technical Director: Chip Gertzog
- Technical Crew: Jim Gertzog, Sarah Mournigham, Jen Grottle, Barbara Gertzog
- Stage Manager: Audrey Suarez
- Stage Crew: Annie Brown, Katie Brown
- Lighting Design: Chip Gertzog
- Sound Design: Chip Gertzog
- Set Design and Construction: John Coscia
- Set Construction Crew: Janet Bartelmay, Beth Hughes-Brown, Tim Brown, Tom Coscia, Larry Craven, Patrick David, Laura Fischer, Chip Gertzog, Jimmy Gertzog, David Schwartz, Steve Smith, Audrey Suarez, Bob Timmerman, John White, Kathy White, Bill Vander Clute, Jayne Victor, Beth Gilles-Whitehead, David Whitehead
- Set Decoration: Kathy White
- Set Decoration Assistants: Monica Craven, Kristin Bolster, Karen Craven
- Set Painting: Kathy White
- Properties Mistress: Susan Kaplan
- Costume Design: Robbie Snow
- Makeup and Hair Design: Robbie Snow and Beth Harrison
- House Management: Ann and Matt Ames
- Playbill Advertising: Jayne Victor
- Photographer: Chip Gertzog
- Publicity: Chip Gertzog
Disclaimer: Providence Players provided one complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review. Also, Michael Clark is designing a new web site for the Providence Players, as a paid contractor.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5070.