History books shroud World War II with specific imagery: soldiers, Nazi salutes, atomic bombs, Rosie the Riveter, and a victorious kiss from a sailor in Times Square. But See Rock City breaks through these grandiose symbols and reveals a refreshingly simple story.
Arlene Hutton’s play is a sequel to her Last Train to Nibroc. Following May and Raleigh, the same young couple from the prior story, we witness their relationship mature as they return to their hometown in Kentucky. Joining them are their juxtaposing mothers: the sweetly helpful Mrs. Gill and the tart Mrs. Brummett.
While serving as a continuation, this show stands on its own. There’s no need to have seen the prior play in order to enjoy See Rock City. In fact, there’s a comprehensive realness to visiting a group of characters in the midst of their journeys.
Director Bill Largess has successfully relayed a welcoming warmth throughout the production. Even though Hutton’s script is full of emotional lows that parallel the highs, Largess has created an environment that urges you to join the characters for a cup of tea and a plate of cookies. The set design amplifies this warmth as every scene takes place on an old-fashioned southern porch that’s garnished with flowers. We’re merely their neighbors, peeking over the fence.
The most compelling aspects of this story are the characters’ relationships to the war. You expect joy to couple a war’s end, but that feeling is replaced with complication and frustration. When the troops start returning home, May and Raleigh start to suffer.
The small cast churns out strong performances. Returning to play May and Raleigh are Lexi Langs and Wood Van Meter, who truly vibe as a couple. Their honey-glazed chemistry easily emanates from the stage. Lynn Steinmetz plays Mrs. Gill with a delightful and matronly air, and she adds tinges of edgy-sass to balance out the sweetness. And Laura Giannarelli’s Mrs. Brummett, while brute and blatant, is a perfect foil to the rest of the characters. Her rendition delivers just the right amount of close-minded unawareness, carefully keeping the character grounded enough to avoid becoming a cartoon.
See Rock City
closes February 11, 2018
Details and tickets
Hutton spends a tad too much time on the exposition. This may be unavoidable considering she needs to introduce the previous plot to both fans of her last show and newcomers.
Plenty of period pieces cover epic romances, historically significant moments, and intense journeys. But it’s a welcome change when we can travel back in time and observe an unadorned American narrative. See Rock City invites us to experience the past through the lives of ordinary people.
See Rock City by Arlene Hutton. Directed by Bill Largess. Featuring Lexi Langs, Laura Giannarelli, Lynn Steinmetz, and Wood Van Meter. Setting: Carl F. Gudenius and Xiaoxiao Wang. Costumes: Noelle Cremer. Lighting: Marianne Meadows. Sound: Frank DiSalvo, Jr. Assistant director: Carl Randolph. Stage Manager: Arthur Nordlie. Produced by Washington Stage Guild. Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.