January 22, 2010

The Good Ole Days

2010_coalcreek_showpageposter.jpgAppalachia 1912. Expect music from the hills, family, old-timey ways. But don't expect the good ole days. The miners are being forced into more and more degrading, life-threatening conditions, and those who disagree are run off the company property. Enter a strike. Enter armed guards, and a family torn--members living and dead, straddling both sides of the not-so-proverbial fence. This is Walter Thinnes' "Coal Creek," Winner of the 2009 New Play Festival, and produced by Centre Stage.

Caleb (Jeff Warren) and his son Joshua (Justin Walker) face off as father and son on opposite sides of the labor war. Aunt Lillian (Alyx Clements) and Anna (Olivia Wilusz) try to outfox the camp guard Quinn (Bruce Meahl) to get food to Joshua and the other starving strikers. It's a uniformly strong cast, with a sparkling performance by Alyx Clements--her feisty Lillian is the highlight of the evening, so honest and homey you'd think she just happened to wander in here from camp. And when she matches wits and wills with Quinn? Expect fireworks and lots of laughter, and a delicious of feeling of relief that you aren't on the receiving end of all her "attentions."

You'll also be glad you didn't live in the sepia-toned past, at least not when real history rears its grisly head. Thinnes has taken up the story of the West Virginia Mine War, and he doesn't shy away from the facts. But he also finds an impossible path--the one narrow road leading to a feeling of hope and triumph.

This is a new play. Approach it not like a baby, but like a teenager. It's growing. Sometimes it doesn't know what to do with its lanky appendages. It's often long-winded, and sometimes traffics in cliche, but thanks to Brian Haimbach's insightful direction--the play just might surprise you with its passion and humor, its clarity on disturbing passages in history. And you'll be one of the few, the hearty few, who can point to the successful grown-up play and say, "Yes, I knew Coal Creek, way back in the good ole days."

Walter Thinnes' "Coal Creek," Director: Brian Haimbach. Scene: Wendy Marriott. Sound: Richard Beveridge. Lighting: Marlaina Seay. Costume: Deb Warren. With Jeff Warren, Bruce Meahl, Alyx Clements, Justin Walker, Olivia Wilusz.

Presented by Centre Stage, 501 River Street, Greenville, SC (864) 233-6733. Through Jan 30. Tickets $10 ($5 students)

Posted by stephanie at January 22, 2010 08:29 AM | TrackBack