Friday, May 18, 2012

'57 Hours' Worthy Idea in Need of Some Work

Dwayne Yancey's "57 Hours in the House of Culture" is a creative and thoughtful treatment of a terrorist incident in Russia 10 years ago, but it is a play that needs some work.

"57 Hours," is directed by Brian O'Sullivan and is playing at Studio Roanoke Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 27 (tickets at 540-343-3054). Tickets are $12 and $15.

This is a new play from a guy who's been around a while and my guess is Dwayne will tighten it, shorten it a bit and make the first half nearly as compelling as the final 10 minutes. It has some fine moments, an interesting structure and a couple of solid performances.

My favorite performance among the actors was from one of the secondary players, Kelly Anglim, a young JMU theater graduate who played one of the female Muslim terrorists. They took over a theater in Moscow where a lot of people eventually died. It was an act of retribution for years of what the Chechnians considered near genocide on a continuing basis from the Russians. Kelly's character was a 16-year-old recruit (her family was paid) who spent much of the time on sedatives and who didn't have much of an idea what she was doing. She was as sympathetic and confused as she should have been.

Dwayne's writing is solid if not particularly flashy. The history lesson is excellent, as you'd anticipate from this fine journalist. Most of the acting was about what you'd expect at Studio Roanoke, an experimental theater where plays like this get a shot they wouldn't normally get. Once again, I'll simply say that this one was not my cup of tea, but I applaud everybody involved for their work and their obvious passion. Most of those in the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the production.

Give it a shot. It ain't "Oklahoma" but it ain't supposed to be. This is real theater.

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