An Evening of One-Acts by THORNTON WILDER
PULLMAN CAR HIAWATHA
Directed by HENRY WISHCAMPER
THE HAPPY JOURNEY TO TRENTON AND CAMDEN
Directed by CARL FORSMAN
The Connelly Theater, June 19 July 18, 2004
Scenic Design TAKESHI KATA
Costume Design JENNY MANNIS
Lighting Design JOSH BRADFORD
Music AARON MEICHT
Stage Manager MADDALENA DEICHMANN
Press Representative KAREN GRECO ENTERTAINMENT
Kristen Bedard Martin Carey Jimonn Cole Dan Cordle
Maria Dizzia Ann Dowd Wilber Edwin Henry Jonathan Hogan Christopher Keough Lael Logan Shane McRae DJ Mifflin
Glen Pannell John Patrick Susan Pellegrino Laura Plouffe
Christa Scott-Reed Jocelyn Rose Peter Russo Melodie Sisk Pi Smith David Standish Ryan Ward Michael Warner
Keen Company has returned with a charming, short evening of one-act plays penned by Thornton Wilder in 1931, and collectively entitled PULLMAN CAR HIAWATHA. Significant for making small town slice of life details relatable to a mass audience, these two works are ample evidence that the power behind Wilders storytelling lies in his observation and expression of details. They also hint at the creative roots for well-known Wilder, especially OUR TOWN, so the chance to experience these theatrical building blocks is a rare opportunity.
The first play presented, THE HAPPY JOURNEY TO TRENTON AND CAMDEN, follows an average middle class family consisting of Ma (Ann Dowd), Pa (Wilbur Edwin Henry), and children Caroline (Laura Plouffe) and Arthur (Ryan Ward) as they travel by car to visit elder, married daughter Beulah (Lael Logan). With the Stage Manager (Jonathan Hogan, in both plays) acting as narrator, the townsfolk back home and the gas station attendant along the way, there is a pretty full feeling for a one-act mostly set inside a car. The Ma is a talker, and an excitable woman, and her role is infused with realistic humor. Pa is the quiet one. The children chatter. The day seems routine, and it sort of is in the scheme of things. On closer inspection, however, this is a tale of perseverance. It reflects on one family, but it hints at the human spirit.
The title work, PULLMAN CAR HIAWATHA, is about one night on a Pullman car train called Hiawatha. Filled with varying passengers, and including references to the larger concerns of theology and astronomy, this short work hints heavily at what would be Grovers Corners, set in motion, but it is much more than a mere precursor to the 1938 masterpiece. Bringing in so much beyond the mainly nameless 20-odd characters and the types the represent (here, the geography of Hiawatha), even the hours, the planets and the angels are within the universal realm of this very special journey. A mighty examination for a play that runs only about one half of an hour, it is clear that Wilder had the grandest of ambitions for his particular brand of small town folk.
So, for a rare glimpse at some lesser known Thornton Wilder, Keens PULLMAN CAR HIAWATHA is a must see. Short and simple, yet still telling and timely, an audience will not be able to deny the creative storytelling at work.
- Kessa De Santis -