J. A. Di Bello’s Review of Orphans

Augut 9, 2019

Milford Theatre

Milford, PA

An Unholy Trinity

     The enthusiasm and tingles of excitement found to accompany opening nights were prevalent at the Milford Theatre Friday night. Though patrons were sparse, they delighted in an intense and penetrating delivery of Lyle Kessler’s Tony Award nominated drama, Orphans. Side of the Road Theatre Company’s (SOTR) thought provoking slice of life production falls into the category of “meaningful drama.” As noted in the August issue of “Delaware and Hudson Canvas,” “Meaningful drama is designed to confront the concepts that cause a person to be what he/she is, frequently triggering introspection, and evaluation of the self through focus and similar processes.”

The above is not to suggest meaningful drama is absent from the area, for it is not. Yet, the (SOTR) has been noted for its serious pursuit of drama that represents situations and slices of life that are noted in other genres as verismo. Consider its recent productions: Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Ed Albee’s A Delicate Balance and Sam Sheppard’s Ages of the Moon. Each remains as a sterling example of dramatic literature designed to reflect meaningful concepts.

Beth Kelley, President of SOTR and director of Orphans is a brave and ballsy thespian. To take on the challenges of Kessler’s play requires more than an acute knowledge of theatre and play production. The 3 characters, 2 brothers and an older man present in this moving drama are complex; each vibrant character represents various stages of “faulty psychological mechanisms.” The brothers, over the years, have developed a mutual dependency that’s interrupted when the older brother kidnaps a man from a local saloon. The play develops an O. Henry-type twist that will tease the audience with the possibility of “comic relief.” Fortunately, the actors delivering these strong and credible characters to the stage in Milford are capable and coachable, i.e., with the collaboration of a capable director able to experience the “internal character.”

Trevor Nardone as Treat, the older brother, is an experienced and dynamic actor. His ability to display Treat’s anger and frustration is reliable and an important part of the motivational development of his character. As the younger brother, Phillip, Rocky Nardone is exceptional. Rocky was Phillip on that stage! He is so credible and to the nth degree able to hold the stage without dispute.

Carrying all the ammunition for the dramatic elements that make this drama work so effectively is Darren Fouse, an experienced and proficient actor. He commendably brings the third character Harold to the stage. He is for all practical purposes a kidnapped “Daddy,” who recognizes these 2 waifs as truly “Dead-end Kids!” He even knows their prophetic theme song: “If I had the Wings of an Angel.” Of course, this once familiar song remained and circulated in the pop music genre as the “Prison Song.” It was once more well-known but remains thematically significant as the full lyric reads, “If I had the Wings of an Angel, Over these Prison Walls I would fly.”

Completing Harold’s position in Lyle Kessler’s intense drama is the revelation that he, Harold, is an avid admirer of the noted escapist Houdini. He also fancies himself, as being acquainted with the art and practice of escapology. Harold may be the Big Daddy, but he’s no “Father Knows Best.” As curtain falls, issues remain. It is this part of the play’s construction that adds an appealing spice to the evening; there remain unresolved concerns. And with relative ease, Treat and Phillip can be taken home. That is, there exist unresolved character issues, conjuring intelligent discussion and legitimate opinions.  

Unfortunately, the run of this excellent production has come to an early and abrupt conclusion. Two performances and closed! The theater gods are angry, as the efforts and accomplishments of this over-the-top production and tireless actors and crew have gone the way of the wind.

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