Elan Garonzik’s Scenes and Revelations echoes the pioneer spirit of Going to See the Elephant and the indomitable nature of women in Voices and Four to Four. It is an engrossing character study of four English sisters growing up in a Mennonite farm town in Pennsylvania. Caught in strong filial ties that bind them even closer after the deaths of their mother and father two years apart, the sisters dream dreams and plot futures that are ultimately thwarted by their duty to remain together and nourish one another.
Helena, the oldest and mainstay of the family, wants more than the sterile rural life but is afraid to cut loose and follow her heart’s desire and the man she loves to California. He’s the bursting-with-life farm manager Samuel who won’t propose to her until they’re ready to cross the boarder into California. Their children, he says are "going to know the East Coast second hand because that’s the only way to know the East Coast." Charlotte is the rigid, puritanical sister who is crushed when the doctor she works for rejects their love because the his church would never accept her. Millie, the flamboyant sister in the family, paints and dreams of fame as a "quelle artiste." We’re not sure she understands the phrase, nor is there any indication that her artistic talent exists beyond her own belief. But it’s obvious her attraction to simple but knowing farm boy Dennis is doomed because she recognizes the cast differences between them. The youngest is Rebecca, who seems to be caught in a time warp of childishness even though she is the first to marry. Reality proves to be too much for her spirit when she has to endure the harshness of life in Nebraska on her sister-in-laws farm.
Scenes and Revelations, which has won several awards and was seen on Broadway in 1981, was written with deep affection, gentle humor and abiding compassion for the forces that pull at these women’s lives. Stuart Lancaster’s meticulous staging captures their joys and tragedies in a fluid production that moves backward and forward in time effortlessly. The contrast between Michael G. Wood’s stark platforms and Gary Christensen’s bucolic sounds reinforces the opposite poles of dreams and actuality.
Lancaster has woven a tight ensemble in the four sister. Barbara Beckley tempers the exuberance of Helena, the eldest, with a prevailing level-headedness in a finely shaded performance. RoZsa Horvath’s Charlotte bears her pain and rejection with stoic, almost regal, dignity. Carole Lineback is a vivid and forth-right Millie with spunk to spare. Kimberley Alexander’s Rebecca suffers slightly from indication of emotion but remains endearing in her naivete.
All the men in these women’s lives are played by Josh Gordon, and actor of infinite variety and subtlety. A weak actor in these multiple roles could dilute the strength of the play but Gordon has an inner electricity that lights the stage with his every entrance. Two minor male roles are very well acted by Don Woodruff who displays gentility and dry with as the sisters’ Uncle Jacob, and Dan Barrows as furniture mover Mr. Karonk, who gives an amusingly stern lecture whenever someone mispronounces his name.
Matthew O. O’Donnell’s lighted
cyc adds the right mood and atmosphere as do RoZsa Horvath’s homey dresses
with their leg-o’-mutton sleeves. Garonzik’s eloquent play is a tribute
to the strength of family love which embraces and endures beyond all personal
desires. This excellent Colony production runs in repertory with The Diviners.
Copyright 1985 Drama-Logue