New Music: A Trilogy by Reynolds Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reynolds Price's work is considered a treasure, especially along the tobacco road corridor in North Carolina. He was a graduate of Duke University and returned there to teach for many years. He wrote novels, memoirs, short stories and, plays, including New Music.
When I saw Price's play was on the schedule for Triad Stage in Greensboro I was excited to see it. New Music is the type of play Triad Stage does well. At almost any moment during the show there are only a few characters on stage, so the staging issues aren't complicated. And it isn't a classic work they feel they have to reinvent. This was a good production.
The set was excellent, as it always is at Triad Stage. It was simple, with places on the stage that designated two different homes and a store. There was no need for set changes. There was also an apartment upstage which provided interesting levels and variety. The acting was wonderful, especially Gayton Scott who plays Roma Avery, a middle aged woman with a cutting, sarcastic side to her that affects her relationship with her son and daughter-in-law. I could see the compensation for insecurity that drove Roma to act the way she did in every move Scott made.
New Music is a trilogy. Triad Stage has decided to put on the entire work in two parts. I saw part one, which is the first two plays. All three plays follow the lives of the Averys, a wealthy southern family. In August Snow Neal and Taw are in the first year of their marriage. It hasn't been an easy year for Taw. Neal spends too much time at his mother's home and too much time with Porter Farwell, his lifelong friend. He often comes home drunk.
Taw has decided to give Neal an ultimatum. He needs to clean up his act or she will leave him. Throughout the beginning of the show the audience's sympathies switch back and forth. Is Taw too domineering or has Neal's behavior forced her hand? There's also a hint that the relationship between Neal and Porter wasn't just a friendship. The subtlety and character development in August Snow was outstanding. I thought the production was as good as you can get and well worth the price of the ticket.
The second play Night Dance didn't come up to the level of the first. This takes place after Neal and Taw have been married for nine years. There is a focus on their decision to have or not to have children. There is also a second plot surrounding World War Two. Neal has flat feet and wasn't able to join the service while Wayne, the fiancé of their friend and landlord Genevieve Slappy, is in the fight. This play was weaker than the first. There was a scene with Wayne's father that didn't advance the plot in any way. The homosexual relationship between Neal and Porter was talked about, so the subtlety was lost. And there were ghosts that appeared in the play, which wasn't in keeping with the style of the show.
The evening was too long even though it was only half the show. We decided not to go back for part two. However, the first play alone was well worth the ticket price and it was a good feeling to see a show by Reynolds Price.
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