Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Quotidian’s production of Tomorrow does justice to the quiet, deliberate tone of Horton Foote’s adaptation of a short story written by William Faulkner. Set in a dreary
The steady and reliable Steve LaRocque serves as the narrator, ably explaining the story’s straggling bits and pieces. John Collins portrays Fentry, a simple farm worker, intent on returning home to be with his ailing father over Christmas as soon as he finishes his meal. He eats his bowl of hominy grits with the intensity of a man who has known hunger, scraping the bowl with a rough finger. He even moves with a hunkered gait like he’s still walking behind a plow and a mule when he takes the dishes outside to clean up, his last chore before heading home.
Collins plays the backwoods mill worker with an old farmhand’s sense of daily routine, no expectations or sense of entitlement to an additional ounce of coffee in his sturdy cup or a biscuit with the meal. That’s what makes his metamorphosis so poignant when his life changes after walking out the door. Faulkner’s message seems to be that you never know what you’ll find along your routine, or as we would say today, life comes at you fast. Fentry was a stone’s throw from saddling up and being on his way. Instead, he stumbled on a life-changing experience with a pregnant Sarah whom he finds moaning on his woodpile.
Michele Osherow’s Sarah has a quiet and engaging energy, an effective complement to Collin’s Fentry. My only quibble is that she doesn’t relay the sense of vulnerability or urgency of a nearly frozen, desperate woman stretched out behind the shed, and instead smiles sweetly and converses in the howling wind like she’s reclining comfortably on a park bench. Once she gets inside the cabin though, her demeanor fits her condition – not hang-dogged or mealy mouthed, just bone weary from the inside out.
The rest of the play shows their growing comfort level with each other as the days turn into weeks and months to delivery, requiring the services of the midwife played by Stephanie Mumford. Sharbori’s handiwork is seen in all the solid performances—each character deals with life’s hardships with a stoic acceptance, straight out of a 1900’s playbook. Whether the nurse is informing Fentry of Sarah’s eminent death, “she’s just played out,” or the awkward marriage proposal, or the touching sickbed wedding ceremony, nothing is over the top, life just keeps going on. Collin’s wordless reaction to hearing about his new bride’s death is one of the most moving scenes I’ve witnessed all year. He’s facing upstage, back to the audience in semi-profile, but his grief is nearly palpable in intensity and reaches to the back of the house—it’s quite a remarkable performance, along with his resolve to raise the newborn as his own. The narrator fills in what happens over the course of life’s turns that connect these events to Fentry’s actions on that jury many years later. It’s a melancholy tale told with grace and dignity. From the set and sound design, also by the remarkable Sharbori, to Don Slater’s lighting, the production respects the earnest perseverance of simple folk who just wanted the basics of the next tomorrow. It is solid storytelling with hints of questions about nature versus nurture that will stick with you like hominy grits long after the show is over.
Tomorrow runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday matinee at 2 pm, through December 10th with a post-show discussion after the November 18th show. Tickets range from $15 to $20 and may be obtained at 301-816-1023 or http://www.quotidiantheatre.org/.