Review: ‘Book of Days’ at Rockville Little Theatre

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Written in 1998, Book of Days is one of the final writings from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson. The play is set in a fictional rural Missouri town of 4,500 or so residents, and follows 11 of those residents and one outsider at the “cusp of the new millennium,” whose lives and stories are all connected around tragedy. The seemingly simple, yet poignant, staging of this piece by Director Jeff Mikoni, coupled with a remarkable cast make this production a noteworthy and well-rounded triumph for Rockville Little Theatre this Spring.

David Dieudonne (Boyd), Paige Fridell (Ginger), and Marnie Kanarek (Ruth). Photo by Harvey Levine.

I cannot say enough about how Director Mikoni, with Set Designer John Decker and Lighting Designer Jonathan Zucker, created this seamless and beautiful display with just the right touch of light or slight movement of the actors. A slight adjustment in light and movement around the multi-tiered set, brought the audience in and out of each scene with ease.

However, the authenticity of this story could not be achieved without the very exceptional   cast assembled by Mikoni. The reality of their characters brought the audience in, each nuanced and believable within their own stories, and with each other. This was most notable with the heroine of the evening, Ruth Hoch, played with a raw authenticity by Marnie Kanarek. Kanarek plays a Bookkeeper and amateur actress who is cast as Joan of Arc in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, Kanarek effortlessly builds her character and shows the undeniable and sometimes obviously stated connection between Hoch and the Joan of Arc character she is playing within the play. She is also paired well with husband Len (Erin Kelman) the couple has faultless chemistry, Kelman playing the earnest and convincing Len with a reserved and sincere appeal.

This incredible ensemble ‘nails it’!

Standout performances came from Natalie McManus who played Len Hoch’s mother and former Hippie, Martha Hoch, and Nicholas Temple who played Reverend Bobby Groves. McManus had some of the brightest laugh-out-loud moments of the evening adding much needed and well-timed levity, while Temple maintained a strong, yet somehow reserved stage presence, that captured my attention whenever he was on stage. He was an audience favorite.

Rounding out this talented ensemble are David Dieudonne as the outsider and fallen theater director Boyd Middleton, Paige Fridell (the beautiful temptress Ginger Reed), Michael Sigler (the domineering yet subtly vulnerable cheese factory owner Walt Bates), Jill E. Goodrich (the acquiescing wife Sharon), Spencer Knoll (the ne’er do well son James Bates), Sara Collins (his scorned wife LouAnn), Matt Williams (the factory worker Earl Hill), and Jeff Asjes, as the seemingly unaware small town Sheriff Conroy Atkins.

Book of Days is great theater! There is only one more weekend to see it, and you don’t want to miss this dream cast.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The cast of Book of Days. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Book of Days plays through May 14, 2017, at Rockville Little Theatre performing at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call (240) 314-8690, buy them at the box office, or purchase them online.