Alina Mae Wilson
Every once in a while you come across a show that causes you to feel a genuine emotional investment. It is the type of show that speaks the truth about human nature without being totally grim and allows us as viewers to feel for and understand each of the characters onstage. A show like this makes us want good things to happen for these people onstage because the people we are watching are us. They are every person at their best and worst moments in life. And as in life, a show like this keeps us guessing. Abundance at South Coast Repertory is one of these shows.
The year is 1868 in the Wyoming Territory, a place where opportunity awaits all who approach. Mail order brides Bess Johnson (Lily Holleman) and Macon Hill(Paige Lindsey White) have made the perilous journey to their new husbands. Although one hopes for love and the other for adventure, these two women instantly become close companions. However, when their new lives are not what they expected, their friendship is tested to the limit.
Each of the characters is relatable in one way or another. Even the most deplorable of them reminds us of the utterly childish and selfish nature humans often battle within themselves. His name is Jack Flan, and actor Adam Haas Hunter meticulously plays him. Jack is the sort of person who weighs down so intensely on the people around him they either change their shapes or die. All of the other people we see have some redeeming qualities, but Jack is just sickening. At best we feel pity. It has been awhile since I’ve seen a villain this true to the careless selfishness so many possess.
The script is profoundly relevant to life as we live it. Many truthful points are made in this story. It is also worth mentioning that these points, as I have dubbed them, are not the usual morals we are beaten over the head with time after time. It’s refreshing to hear someone articulate what many people know but have not really stopped to consider. One of the many truths Abundance showcases is, it is painful to constantly be on the receiving end, and continuously feel you owe someone else a debt. That debt can damage and embitter a human being’s soul. Another is that at any moment life could change and you may get exactly what you wish for…or you may not. The plot is complex enough to sound and look like real life while still being engaging. Multiple times I found myself making predictions, and as in real life, I was often wrong. The unexpected outcomes both surprised and pleased me.
Special mention of the night goes to the leads Lily Holleman (Bess Johnson), and Paige Lindsey White (Macon Hill). Although their characters are incredibly different (then again, maybe not), everyone can identify with them. Both actresses are superb in their roles and do a fine job bringing life to people you want to pray for, hurt for, and cheer for.
Functional and appropriate are the words I would use to describe this set, extra points for blissfully smooth transition. Scenes are changed through various sets gliding on and offstage –often with actors bustling and already in action with not a moment to spare for boredom. These sets are not very colorful, but the setting is 1800s Wyoming, so there really is no need for it to look like a circus. The authenticity for the time period is well represented in every way.
It really isn’t enough to say this show is excellent or to say it’s beautiful. The best description is “reflective” because that’s what we see. We see in these people reflections of ourselves at our best and worst. We also see all the possibilities the world has to offer us, no matter how old we get or where we end up going.
Side note: This is the second production of Abundance @ South Coast Repertory. 25 years ago South Coast produced the World Premiere.
October 16 – November 15, 2015
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CAUTION: LOUD GUNSHOTS, SMOKING AN ELECTRIC CIGAR, AND SEXUAL REFERENCES. MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.