A tense vulnerability rings throughout A Young Lady of Property. It is both draining and riveting, and left me feeling as if I’d relived the million moments from youth when we all struggled to understand where we belonged. As Wilma (Christine Demuth), her Aunt Gertrude (Yvonne Erickson), and her best friend Arabella (Kathryn Zoerb) sing about “sweet Alice” in the opening scene, loneliness seeps into their voices.
Wilma, 15 and headstrong, has known solitude since her mother died, and she began obsessing over the family house. It “belongs” to her, but, fickle in her desires, she aspires to be a Hollywood darling as much as she wants to cling to Harrison, TX life, both the one she’s lived and the one of which she’s dreamed. With a mother and a father and children filling the old home with laughter and love again.
Her father (Tony Tsendeas) has a blossoming romance that threatens to sweep the house from Wilma’s hands forever—an idea that, even as she awaits an invitation by post for a screen test in the big city of Houston, pains her beyond reason.
Both Christine Demuth and Kathryn Zoerb easily capture the wonderful innocence of girls poised to become women as well as the heightened sense of expectation present in youth. They are emotional and naive and curious and eager for more. More life. More love. More dreams.
Michael Stebbins’ direction leads to a measured slowness within the production. The actors’ skillful southern drawls mirror the cadence of an era before cell phones, computers, and social media. The listless swish of a ceiling fan. The chirp of crickets at dusk. The ambling of life in a small town—where and when human connection manifest in one’s land or home—is a slice of Americana as sweet as apple pie.
A Young Lady of Property
Closes September 29, 2013
Rep Stage at the
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
1 hour, 25 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $35 – $40
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Yet, at moments, the actors seem stilted, stiff in their delivery. Almost too mechanical. They deliver Horton Foote’s words with reverence, but long pauses (where they stare at the audience) follow that feel unnatural (and lengthen the show). The play was originally meant as a teleplay, so maybe the long pauses symbolize sweeping shots of scenery. I don’t know, but I wasn’t a fan of this aspect. I think Foote meant for more vigor, fluidity, in his dialogue. Small town folk may speak slowly, but their emotions burn just as quickly as everyone elses.
Foote adapted To Kill A Mockingbird into a screenplay before writing his own silver screen, award-winning gems and plays that often explored the relationships formed in small towns, especially those between women and girls and between them and their place in society. This subtle drama is as good as anything he’s written.
Despite the awkward pausing, the play is still powerful. Finding oneself, learning to belong, and overcoming the fear of a lonely life are resonate coming-of-age themes as timeless as Americana itself.
A Young Lady of Property by Horton Foote . Directed by Michael Stebbins . Produced by Rep Stage . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.