Photo by Matthew G. Hamm
Civil War reenactors have always been a bit of an enigma to me, which is a bit hypocritical considering one of my favorite pastimes is watching people dress up and pretend to be other people for my entertainment. I guess my confusion lies in the fact that (well, other than how they can stand wearing wool in the summer) the outcome of what they’re doing never changes and there’s no audience. I don’t really understand what – or who – they’re doing it for. Jessica Dickey’s Row After Row goes behind the scenes with three of these reenactors and we walk away with a little more understanding.
Cal and Tom (Aaron Holbritter and Ian LaChance) are Civil War reenactors ending a long day of battle with their annual beer at their table in their bar; they realize that a stranger, Leah (Casey Polomaine), a new reenactor, has taken a seat there, which throws them off. Unable to politely nudge her to leave, they sit with her and begin to talk; Cal is confrontational while Tom is accepting. As the night progresses, they find commonalities and work through some of their issues, while ties to the Civil War show that it might not be such distant history after all.
Director Ben Katagiri has done a fine job with this production. The venue must be applauded; the use of the Frear Building is inspired. The gorgeous iron staircase in the center of the building provides not only a beautiful (and historic) background (while casting some deliciously eerie shadows), the actors use it for entrances, exits and acting space, providing levels for the action. I am loving that groups in the area are using some of our beautiful area architecture in which to perform, and I hope this trend continues – it gives new life to these glorious buildings and gives us a chance to see some of our history while experiencing theater. What could be better?
These three actors often work together, and their trust and comfort level in one another shows. Holbritter plays the arrogant, angry Cal to perfection; he’s the kind of person you immediately want to dislike, but there’s something more there if you’re patient, and we can see it’s worth waiting for. His sparring with Polomaine about sexism makes for some of the most interesting dialogue of the evening, and the most relevant. Polomaine’s Leah is equal parts tough, brittle and broken; she performs her multi-faceted character beautifully and is utterly (and heartbreakingly) believable and in the moment. LaChance is just as brittle at times as Tom; his character is on the edge of a breakdown, and as the show progresses you can see it in every movement he makes – nothing is thrown away or wasted.
The show is a tight 75 minutes and the amount of thought-provoking material crammed in that runtime is impressive. There are so many things you’ll leave mulling over, and it says a lot about this production that that’s just one of the many reasons it succeeds.
Row After Row; Creative License, The Frear Building, 1 Fulton St., Troy; through November 11; $15; Runtime: 75 minutes; (518) 618-2996;www.creativelicenseonline.com