Northampton Press

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Theater review: Players' 'Lad' celebrates poetry month

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

The stage version of "A Shropshire Lad," weekends through April 6, McCoole's Arts & Events Place, 10 S. Main St., Quakertown, is a memorable adaptation of a classic by A. E. Housman.

Ara Barlieb adapted and directs the piece, which is a world debut, based on an 1896 book of 63 poems by Housman (March 1859 - 1936), an English poet. Among the more familiar poems are "To An Athlete Dying Young," "Loveliest Of Trees, The Cherry Now" and "When I Was One-And-Twenty."

The play is set in a pub in County Shropshire on the England-Wales border in 1887. The large cast recites verses, usually about four lines at a time, from the poems; interacts, and dances to Celtic tunes in the vibrant choreography by Sarah Thomas.

Goran Zdravkovic portrays Terrance Hearsay, a writer sitting in the pub, taking in, and possibly writing down all that is said and occurs around him. Zdravkovic creates a brooding presence appropriate to the role.

The verses become bridges between characters and to the world at large. The subject material is reflective of an agrarian past when sheep were sheep and lads herded them. There are salutes to soldiers and athletes ("fields where glory does not stay" from "To An Athlete Dying Young").

The limitations of the spoken word are duly noted ("there's brisker pipes than poetry" from "Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff'). There are remembrances of love lost and love yearned for. It was a time when greetings were lively and multisyllabic rather than the contemporary, "Hey." After the ale has been slogged and it's "last call," you may wish there were more.

Several of the actors have spotlight roles, either through the verse they recite or the songs they sing. Among the singers, all in a cappella, Rebecca Burroughs, music director; Kayla Prestel; Sarah Thomas and Pamela Wallace have particularly fine voices and memorable solos.

Among the spoken parts, the vocal timbre of Dan Ferry and David Fox resonate long after the words fade.

The cast includes Chris Donahue, Brian Keller, Paula Klein, Nancy Mikkelsen, Libby Ross, JR Rosen, Patti Squire, Kat Valleley and Scott VanNortwick.

The costumes by Mikkelsen are a predominantly brown array of vests, jackets, dressy pants and snap-brim hats for the men and ankle-length shirts, blouses and shawls for the women.

The lighting by Mikkelsen and Barlieb is muted and effective.

The play's run time is about one hour, including intermission. It's a frolic in verse for the Crowded Kitchen Players.

Since April is National Poetry Month, celebrate by attending "A Shropshire Lad."