The experience of being an audience member can be kind of alienating, caught behind the fourth wall. But every once in awhile along comes a performance that can truly feel intimate, in which a person communicates their ideas to the audience with breathtaking efficacy.
Adelind Horan is that kind of performer, handing out chocolate chip cookies and protest signs to her audience along with the words of real people from Appalachia. Her brilliant docudrama Cry of the Mountain is a must-see, leaving fans of acting and activism alike more than satisfied.
The play is drawn from interviews about mountaintop removal, a mining process that removes peaks of mountains with explosive blasts in order to attain buried seams of coal. This process has been much maligned by critics for its environmental and public health effects, garnering political controversy between big energy companies and concerned environmentalists.
Horan gives a balanced portrayal of this issue in her one-woman show, showing interviews with mining executives and volunteers and contrasts those with the stories of native Appalachian dwellers, scholars and objectors.
These perspectives bring up a host of issues: How will we power our nation? Does America value Appalachian citizens? The carefully crafted piece is arranged with climactic highs and lows, with comic beats mixed among tragedy.
It’s fascinating, and each person is portrayed genuinely. To pull off these diverse characters, Horan used classical techniques of documentary theatre, highly reminiscent of Anna Deavere-Smith’s famous monologue-based plays. She quietly switches characters with a key physical trait, sometimes as subtle as changing the length of the bun in her hair. She attempts to mimic the vocal patterns and gestures of her subjects.
And Horan is a pro, every step of the way. Each characterization is distinct and filled with detail, especially the astounding versatility of her voice. No matter your political stances, it’s hard to deny that Horan isn’t a nearly flawless actor.
More than that, Horan’s performance was remarkable due to her conviction. She chose impassioned people and she played them with just as much enthusiasm. Throughout the hour, Horan never ran out of steam, and didn’t stray from eye contact or talking to her spectators during the performance. This created a warm feel not often seen onstage, that made the show personal.
Real people, a real issue, and a really good actor. When you leave the theatre buzzing with ideas and inspiration, having been individually touched by a performance, I think it’s safe to say that Cry of the Mountain is a rousing success.
Cry of the Mountain has 4 more performances at The Shop – Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave, Washington, DC.