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    Review: I Will Be Gone Opens With An Unusual Start at Humana Festival
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    The beauty of live theatre is that one never knows exactly what might happen.

    That was certainly the case Sunday night at the opening of the Humana Festival’s "I Will Be Gone."

    Unfortunately, the beauty of the moment was shattered when, from somewhere in the audience a man called out, “We should hold!”

    And later, “Let’s hold times two!”

    That’s right. The performance was stopped not once, but twice. First because of a technical malfunction wherein a large set piece would not lower from above, and later when the amplifier to an onstage guitar would not work.

    There is one reason why a show might be stopped in the middle of a performance: safety. If there is no personal hazard, then the show should continue.

    In neither case on Sunday did there seem to be imminent danger. What’s more, the stoppage was not directed by the show’s stage manager, who is in command of the show during performances, but by a man sitting in the audience, whose identity could not be verified.

    Both of these unnecessary holds led to a loss of momentum. And though the cast pulled it together admirably, the intensity and cohesion of the show were definitely broken. To be clear, perfection is not expected; people don’t go to plays to see ‘perfect.’ But the audience, as well as the cast and crew, deserved the opportunity to let the reality of moments play out.

    In the production, teenage Penelope (Amy Berryman) has recently experienced the death of her mother, and has come to live with her Aunt Josephine. As she tries to adjust to small town life, she meets Elliot, with whom she forms a quick bond. But Elliot, a recovering addict, has struggles of his own, and can’t give Penelope what she needs. Meanwhile, Josephine tries to reconcile the loss of her sister while maintaining her own relationships. But Jo can’t mourn peacefully, because she is haunted—in her mind or in reality or in both—by ghosts from her past and her present that just won’t leave her alone.

    But it isn’t just Jo who is haunted. All of the residents of Mono County, California are haunted by something. Something that just won’t give them peace.

    Though there is a lot of action that happens in the story, much of that action occurs out of the purview of the audience; listening closely to the exposition is crucial.

    The production is episodic in nature, with some scenes discordant, leaving us to wonder how they are connected to the throughline of the play. This is especially true during a band practice scene that just doesn’t seem to tie to the rest of the production. The truncated scenes also make it difficult for us to form connections with these characters on a deep level; we don’t get to know them as much as we would like. Nevertheless, Birgit Huppuch (Josephine) and Alex Moggridge (Liam) have found the depth they needed in the script to lead the cast.

    Erin Courtney’s "I Will Be Gone" is directed by Kip Fagan and is part of the 39th annual Humana Festival, which runs through April 12. Tickets for this production, as well as for all other Humana Festival offerings, can be purchased via the Actors Theatre website or by calling 502.584.1205. This production is intended for mature audiences.

    Image: Courtesy of B. Brymer/Actors Theatre

    Michelle Rynbrandt's picture

    About Michelle Rynbrandt

    Before landing in the Possibility City, Michelle toured the country performing in various regional theatres. Having been there and done that, she can honestly say that Louisville's cultural opportunities are second to none.

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