Elden Street Players Murder in Green MeadowsBy Michael Clark • Oct 11th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Elden Street Players
Industrial Strength Theater, Herndon, VA
Through October 30th
2:20 with one intermission
$19/$16 Seniors and Students
Reviewed October 8th, 2010
Mickey Rourke’s character in the movie “Body Heat” said “any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you’re gonna [mess] up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you’re a genius.” Murder in Green Meadows applies that rule as two couples interact with each other in a new housing development. Everything on the surface seems nice and safe, but as we get to know the people, we see there are big issues under the surface that eventually lead to murder.
Thomas and Joan Devereaux (Matt Jordan and Heather Whitney) have just moved into a new home in a new subdivision, built by Thomas’ new construction firm, and they meet their new neighbors, Jeff and Carolyn Symons (Mickey DeVito and Leah Daily). Unfortunately, old problems from the Devereaux’ past has followed them. Thomas has a dark side, including verbal abuse and murder, while Joan suffers from low self-esteem and tries to make up for that by sleeping around. Jeff and Carolyn have their own problems, including a breakdown, or a shutdown, by Carolyn, and Jeff seems to be easily led around by women. To give any more specific details away of this thriller would be a disservice.
Heather Whiteney as the verbally abused wife was effective as she took her husband’s abuse and as she talked with ehr neighbor about the bedroom incident. Mickey DeVito was the nice guy everyone wants as a neighbor, although at times he seemed to be playing grown-up. Leah Daily brought some much needed humor to the play, and seemed to be able to tap into her character’s inner reservoir of strength. Matt Jordan though needed to vary his speech patterns more, a quieter tone may have been a stronger choice for some of his stories. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, so won’t get more specific.
Maggie Modig’s set reminded me of an Ikea showroom, a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to have to use the furniture on a regular basis. I also thought the raised platform for the dining area needed a rail along the double high side behind the sofa, or a step running the entire length to create a platform that could easily be accessed from any angle. A clear attention to detail in the kitchen included a working sink, and a fridge that had real food and drinks inside it. Ian Claar’s light design at times felt heavy handed, although at other times very subtle shifts in the lighting helped set the creepy atmosphere. The lightning effects were very well done, the timing of the thunder was excellent. Alan Reichert’s sound effects and music choices were well done.
If you are a fan of murder mysteries, you’ll probably figure out what is going to happen in advance. If you are fan of thrillers, you’ll probably want to just sit back and go for the ride. The revelations that occur in the first act are piled upon one another, such that at one scene blackout, the audience applauded thinking it was the end of the act, but another revelation occurred before the intermission. This was an enjoyable production, especially if you are tired of Agatha Christie and other traditional thrillers.
Be aware that Murder in Green Meadows contains mature subject matter and themes, so is not appropriate for young audience members.
Though seemingly obscure in name and subject matter, Murder in Green Meadows neatly bends my directorial path into something resembling a full circle. This isn’t because I’ve directed this particular play before or in fact any other murder mystery to date. What makes this play so special, both in isolation and within the context of my other efforts, is it’s reliance on deception. Her are thre examples. My first solo directorial effort took place while I was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester. The show, William Mastrosimone’s Cat’s-Paw is all about getting an audience to think differently about a highly visceral issue by the time the play ends. Do the ends ever justify the means when innocent human life is at stake? Even the hyphenated title connotes one who has been used or duped and there is plenty of concealment in that small show, set in nearby Washington, DC.
Following relocation to Northern Virginia immediately after grad school, my first direction down here was Lovers & Executioners for the Reston Community Players. John Strand’s excellent interpretation of Montfleury’s original story deftly demonstrates how deception, employed as a last resort, ironically serves as the perfect vehicle to deliver truth and salvation, if not complete reconciliation between wayward husband and his desperately resourceful wife. Here at Elden Street’s Industrial Strength roughly a decade ago, I was honored to take Ben Johnson’s The Alchemist. This classic comedy neatly weaves multiple subplots driven by greed, lust, and other sins that are adroitly exploited by the central “venture tripartite” of subtle, Face, and Dol Common. Those three expert con artists, who I first met as an assistant director at Rochester, almost get away with their Renaissance-era treasure, proving that 400-year-old play can be just as illuminating on the human condition as the script tht brings us together for this performance. Speaking of which, you will have observed by now that I’ve said almost nothing about Murder in Green Meadows and yes, that’s deliberate. To reveal anything beyond the fact that this show fits the paradigm defined above would constitute a disservice to the playwright, as well as the talented cast and crew assemble here. Suffice it to say, you won’t be disappointed. So, please, sit back and enjoy what is to come.
Photos by Jeff Boatright.
- Joan Devereaux: Heather Whitney
- Thomas Devereaux: Matt Jordan
- Jeff Symons: Mickey DeVito
- Carolyn Symons: Leah Daily
- Producer: Mary Ann Hall
- Director: Adam Konowe
- Assistant Directors: Brian Farrell & Karen Schlumpf
- Stage Manager: Robert Knight
- Assistant Stage Manager: Jordan Parker
- Set Design: Maggie Modig
- Set Construction: Skip Gresko
- Master Carpenter: Skip Gresko
- Assisted by: Todd Huse, Richard Durkin, Jill Tunick, Ian Brown, Robin Zerbe, Bill Behan, Theresa Bender, Suzanne Jenkins and Renee Belongia
- Set Painting: Maggie Modig
- Painting Assistants: Renee Belongia, Jill Tunick, Barbara Swart, Sabrina Begley, Theresa Benda, Mary Ann Hall
- Properties & Set Dressing Design: Mary Ann Hall
- Assisted by: Jill Tunick & Renee Belongia
- Lighting Design: Ian Claar
- Master Electrician/Board Operator: Michael J. O’Connor
- Assisted by: Michael J. O’Connor, Luke O’Brien, & Mary Ann Hall
- Sound Design: Alan Reichert
- Board Operator: Beth Atkins
- Special Effects: Brian Farrell, Skip Gresko, Karen Schlumpf
- Blood Effects: Brian Farrell, Karen Schlumpf
- Water effects: Skip Gresko
- Costume Design: Susan Devine
- Makeup/Hair Design: The Cast
- Stage Combat Choreographers: Brian Farrell (SAFD) & Karen Schlumpf (SAFD)
- House Management: David Sinclair
- Box Office Management: Melody Fetske
- Publicity: Richard Clare, Todd Huse, Ginger Kohles
- Cover Graphic & Playbill: Ginger Kohles
Disclaimer: Elden Street Players provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
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