Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Hard Bargain Players And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson

By • Sep 13th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson by Jim Leonard, Jr
Hard Bargain Players
Hard Bargain Ampitheatre, Accokeek, MD
Through September 29th
2:00 with intermission
$10/$8 Students and Seniors
Reviewed September 10th, 2012

In a small town in Indiana in the 1950s, Elizabeth Willow, wheelchair bound as a result of polio, tries to lead as normal a life as possible. Her parents want her happy, but at home forever. The children of the town move through acceptance to ignorance, fear, and hate to make this a dark play that brings both hope and hatred to life.

We were invited to the first technical rehearsal on Monday evening. Fall was in the air as we watched the seven performers run the show from start to finish. For a first run it was over all smooth. There were some minor line issues and a couple late entrances and forgotten props. Yet the ending was powerful and the glitches were chalked up to a part of “magic week magic.”

Elizabeth Willow (Deana Kay Gilley) was not only strong physically, but also emotionally. Her courage in standing up to her mother, her friends who did not (or would not) accept her as one of their own was easily seen in the interpretation of her character. Gilley had the most physically restrained role, as she spent the entire play in a wheelchair with braces on her legs. Her scenes with her “boyfriend” (played by Sean Smith) were sweet, while her scene talking with her friend Zelda helped show Elizabeth’s humanity.

Elizabeth’s mother Beth, played by Lynne O’Meara, had a somewhat shaky relationship with her daughter. O’Meara seemed reluctant to let her daughter grow up, telling everyone she was different and “sensitive” and yet she made sure everyone knew she was beautiful and grown up. In the story, Beth goes to visit a couple of places for Elizabeth to live and comes back to make up some sort of excuse as to why they were not right for Elizabeth, much to Elizabeth’s frustration. O’Meara seemed to see Elizabeth as a burden she could not let go.

Elizabeth’s father Ben was a man caught in a no-win situation. Played by Pete Farnham, Ben just wanted Elizabeth to get the stuff the other girls had and was proud of her, no strings attached. If she left home, great for her! If she lived at home, that was fine, too. As long as she was happy. Farnham seemed to characterize peace.

The other ensemble players filled in the rest of Elizabeth’s world. The first few scenes were confusing, but then the “aha” moment happened as realization set in that the show was jumping back and forth through time. The hair bows and baseball caps meant a younger kid while the book, badge, robe, or cowboy hat represented an older person or an adult. Costume Designer Relynn Dare Johnson successfully gave each of the ensemble different accents to their costumes to help define each character. The actors also changed their speech, mannerisms, and demeanor. It was interesting to watch the dynamics acted out on stage as the town tried to understand and “handle” Elizabeth Willow.

The simple set is best described as interpretive. Set Designer Randy Sena built a platform with stairs down the front and the sides. This allowed the actors to move freely, but kept wheelchair isolated Elizabeth strapped in her room most of the time. Sena built a ramp that led to a backstage where Gilley, with the help of cast or crew could come out to do some of her scenes in front below the platform.

And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson was a somber show with occasional laughter, and perhaps some tears will be jerked when emotions run high, but overall was well performed.

Photo Gallery

Cast Sean Smith, Neil Twohig, Juliette Chagnon & Laura Stephens as kids telling ghost stories in the graveyard
Sean Smith, Neil Twohig, Juliette Chagnon & Laura Stephens as kids telling ghost stories in the graveyard
Deana Gilley as Elizabeth Willow and Ben Farnham as Ben Willow discussing Elizabeth's future.
Deana Gilley as Elizabeth Willow and Ben Farnham as Ben Willow discussing Elizabeth’s future.

Photos by Patchie [Photography]


  • Elizabeth Willow: Deana Kay Gilley
  • First Woman (Nancy Matthews, Claranelle, Judith Morgan): Laura Stephens
  • Second Woman (Maddie, Emma Matthews, Cindy Sue White, Girl): Juliette Kelsey Chagnon
  • First Man (Skeeter Robins, Woody, Timmy, Bobby Morgan, Reverend Peester, Sam, Boy): Sean Smith
  • Second Man (Kid, Russel Taylor, Moose, Jeremy, Daddy, Billy Taylor): Neil Twohig
  • Beth Willow: Lynne O’Meara
  • Ben Willow: Pete Farnham

Production Team

  • Director: Sean Michael Fraser
  • Assistant Director/Stage Manager: April D. Weimer
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Kyle Bailey/Kate O’Meara
  • Stage Crew: Kate O’Meara
  • Producers: Sean Fraser/April Weimer
  • Production Assistant: Kathy Mead
  • Set Designer: Randy Sena
  • Master Carpenter/Scenic Painting: Randy Sena and crew
  • Costume Designer: Relynn Dare Johnson
  • Hair/Make-up Designer: The Cast
  • Props Designer: Terri Beinert
  • Light Designer: April D. Weimer
  • Sound Designer: Draper Carter/Sean Fraser
  • Sound Operator: Fredricka Fraser
  • Choreography: Sean Michael Fraser
  • Stage Combat Choreography: Sean Michael Fraser
  • Publicity and Marketing: Liz Mildenstein
  • House Management: Michael Margelos
  • Publicity Photographs: Rachel Wallace
  • Headshots: Greg Rumpf

Disclaimer: We attended a tech week rehearsal for this review.

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2 Responses »

  1. As Artistic Director of the Hard Bargain Players, I once again thank Show Biz Radio for the continuing support of local theater. FYI: Price of tickets is $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for students and seniors. Thanks to Sean and his cast & crew for giving our community a production that led to this very nice review. See you in the woods.

  2. Hi David,

    I apologize for the typo on your ticket prices. I looked at the wrong line on your web site. I’ve fixed the info box information. Mike