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Far Away Lands in Sharon’s Front Lawn

Theater review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sun Jul 9th, 2017

Gabriel Levey, Madeline Wise, Madelynn Peterson, Johnson Henshaw

Sharon Playhouse has taken the unusual step of producing a Caryl Churchill play—unusual because her work is not very well known in this country, despite the fact that in England she is considered to be one of that country’s leading playwrights. Far Away depicts a world at war: us vs. them, where the enemy is mallards, chefs, Latvian dentists, musicians, Swedes, and ants. Everything that happens on stage is encompassed by overarching, omnivorous, echoing ironies that may become more ambiguous upon contemplation.

All of nature has been weaponized by scientists, but darkness, rivers, and silence have not yet been weaponized, although strategic research on that problem is being conducted by both sides. Due to overpopulation of the earth, secret oligarchs are at war. Live trials dominate television during the day and the more sensational ones are re-run at night. Captured enemy walk a fashion runway to the pyre. Everyone wears a special state-made fashion hat to the pyre. Prize hats, made by exploited workers, are placed in museums. Everyone walking the plank to their death wants to be remembered for their goofy dance before death. Spies for hire lurk everywhere. Those bored of killing may become traitors. Killing is a way of life, no matter what side one is on.

Costumes by Asta Bennie Hostetter are simple, effective, and imaginative, especially looping hats in the parodic fashion runway. Gabriel Levey and Madeline Wise are outstanding with their desperate and deft office romance; they receive professional support from Mia Katigbak, the stern heavy (whose story we don’t know), and the charmingly innocent Madelynn Peterson.

Far Away, directed by Morgan Green, is a satiric, minimalist (think Beckett) one-act play running about forty minutes. There is a second act—the lively and informal Q & A Talkback. Since the play is dense without explanation or catharsis, this Talkback with actors offers the former while approaching the latter. If you become attached to any of the characters in the play or identify with one, you will need to find the services of a shrink at your own expense. About this play a friend of mine said: "Some people prefer short and biting; worth every nickel."

Technically, there are three acts or scenes to the play, but this is really a one-act play; I would have preferred that this play had been combined with a second one-act play by Churchill or someone else—for a greater length of theatrical experience and/or comparison. Even though this play was written seventeen years ago, some may think that the enemy has landed in Sharon, but I assure you that they are only actors pretending to be the enemy and beneath their costumes they hide hearts of gold, yet their pockets may be empty when no cares a whit about theater as they are engrossed in the myriad social illusions of war, anger, and resentment.

Far Away runs Thursdays through Sunday through July 23. Tickets can be purchased online at www.sharonplayouse.org.