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Review: ‘Foxfire’ at Bowie Community Theatre

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Foxfire is a heartwarming and poignant story that will have audience members laughing and teary-eyed in the same moment. Currently in production at Bowie Community Theatre, Foxfire is a drama by Susan Cooper and Hume Cronyn. Ken Kienas is the Producer, Frank Pasqualino is the Director, and Portia Bagley is the Stage Manager.

The character of Annie Nations (Kathryn Huston), based on Appalachian resident Arie Carpenter (1885-1978), is a strong-willed Appalachian woman who lives on her mountain farm with her sharp-tongued, bull-headed husband, Hector (Richard Fiske). She becomes vulnerable when a determined real estate developer plans to turn her simplistic home into a vacation resort. At the time, she is concerned for her country singer son, Dillard, who has come home because his wife has left him and their two children. Annie’s battle to decide her fate takes her through some funny, touching, and magical flashbacks of her life with Hector.

The cast of Foxfire. Photo courtesy of Bowie Community Theatre.

The cast of Foxfire. Photo courtesy of Bowie Community Theatre.

Kathryn Huston’s Annie is an aging woman with a gentle soul. Having lived on the family mountain-top all her life, she has managed to raise 3 children and work the farm along with her husband. Now 72, the years have caught up with her and Huston shows this with a shaky voice and weary steps. Yet she still remains faithful to tradition (like doing something to a pig head), despite her slight hunch and aching bones. She is kind to everyone, even the real estate developer, when she offers him to help himself to the apple orchard. She is also loved by her dispersed family when they visit her. Huston gives a stunning performance in which she comes across as “everyone’s grandma.”

Hector (Richard Fiske) is one ornery old man. Full of quick-wit with a brutish persona, sarcasm should be his middle name. Fiske plays an even-keeled but extremely opinionated character, yet he ambles about the stage with his hands in his pockets and not a care in the world, as he reminisces with Annie. Huston and Fiske, though not all ‘kissy-kissy,’ do have a certain chemistry, showing that even though their life hasn’t been all wine and roses, the fond memories exude the love of a lifetime.

Dillard (John Davis DuRant, Jr.), Annie and Hector’s son is a down-home, charming country singer that is on tour and comes to visit his mama. DuRant, in his first-time role, is a gem. A natural to the stage, he has a bit of swagger in his step and a twang to his words and on occasion would raise his voice to a disrespecting level. However, the character Dillard loves his mama and is trying to resolve some issues involving his father. The pleasant surprise is DuRant’s singing voice. He fills the auditorium with rich mid-tone notes that could definitely melt a gal’s heart.

Holly (Julie Anne Eller) is the-gal-next-door with quite a bit of spunk. She is kind to “Aunt” Annie yet full of opinion when it comes to Dillard. Holly is a young gal and a school teacher. Eller gives this character a lot of pep in her step and her exuberance for the small town is cute and catching.

Prince (Bill Brekke), the real estate agent, who would be considered “the bad guy” is not so bad. Yes, he wants to buy the land, develop it, and is offering six-figures to Annie. He is assertive in terms of “I’ll keep trying,” but he doesn’t threaten Annie or talk mean to her. He is a straight shooter though a bit dim-witted until someone tells him the truth about Hector. Brekke carries the character well, mostly in mannerism with his chest puffed out and straight posture. He dresses well, talks a good talk, and is a determined man.

Bill Brekke and Kathryn in Foxfire. Photo courtesy of Bowie Community Theatre.

Bill Brekke and Kathryn Huston in Foxfire. Photo courtesy of Bowie Community Theatre.

Doctor (David Chalmers) is a quiet man – that is until an urgent medical situation comes around. It shows in the scene when Annie gave birth to Dillard. Doctor gives good stern direction to Hector and literally supports Annie through the delivery. Chalmers delivers a passionate performance.

Set Designer/Painting Supervisor Ryan Ronan and Scenic Designer Laurie Gassie, along with an enormous Set Construction and Set Painting crew, built a set that is all about the details. A façade of a cabin that lives high above the mountainous orchard, has all the indications of a farm, like the wagon wheel propped up against a tree, farm tools lying about, and the cellar door for food storage. What is so incredible are the tiny details, like the tuffs of grass surrounding the tree stump, the basket next to the rocking chair, and the water barrel and pitch fork leaning against a rail. That’s what makes the set so real and feeling a bit transported back in time.

Garrett Hyde’s (Lighting Designer) design indicates periods of time with the brightness or the dimness (the past) of the lighting. In a few scenes, the lighting would show the end of the day and that would be coupled with Eric Small’s Sound design. He manages the sound of crickets, a car coming up the mountain, and chirping birds, to name a few. It all ties nicely together with the costuming.

Hillary Glass’ costumes are true to the time period(s) in the show. Annie wears simple dresses with an apron while Hector remains in his coveralls. Holly appears in simple outfits like a skirt and top or a dress with flats. Both the real estate developer and the doctor show up in slack and long-sleeve shirts with dress shoes. Dillard wears jeans and a tee-shirt but when he performs, it’s all black from head to toe with detailed stitching on his shirt.

A must mention is Suzie Nixon Flaherty who is a Foxfire Consultant and Dialect Coach.

Special kudos to musicians of the Stoney Lonesome Band: John DuRant, Sr. (banjo), Donna Korn (fiddle), Sarah Stepanik (fiddle), David Stemmle (Mandolin), and Eric Small (Bass), who contribute so much joy to the production.

Foxfire is an amazing story that needs to be told. What is so likable about this production is the simplicity of it. The set, the lighting and sound, and the costumes are fantastic, but it’s the the simplicity in the acting and directing – meaning no spectacle, no big-time anger scene, no major drama – is just simply moving. It is an easy-going story about a modest life in the Appalachians that is truly part of the America’s heritage. As technology moves us forward, the traditions of our parents, grandparents, and even our great-grandparents, slip away into the past.

Foxfire is described in the program as, “A poignant drama about maintaining one’s identity and memories through the inevitable march of time.” Don’t miss Bowie Community Theatre’s moving Foxfire.

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Running Time: Two hours, with an intermission.

Foxfire plays through December 18, 2016, at Bowie Community Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse -16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call (301) 805-0219, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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