If you have read my reviews of the first two segments of Susan Zeder's breathtaking Ware Trilogy, you already have some sense of how much I admire these gripping tales of the lives of simple folks scratching out a life and a living in Ware, Illinois during the Great Depression and the war years that followed.
If you did not see the first two plays, or have not yet had an opportunity to read my reviews of "Mother Hicks" and "The Taste of Sunrise," then it may be worth your while to take a moment to bring yourself up to speed so that what I have to say about "The Edge of Peace" will make more sense.
Blog Review of "Mother Hicks"
Blog Review of "The Taste of Sunrise"
The mounting of these three plays that comprise The Ware Trilogy represents a praiseworthy and signal achievement brought about through the creative collaboration among three organizations: Emerson Stage, The Wheelock Family Theater and Central Square Theater. In addition, this World Premiere event was also made possible through a breakthrough sense of cooperation and communication between the world of the Hearing and the Deaf Community. Those of us who are accustomed to experiencing theater with our eyes and ears were given an opportunity to begin to appreciate how richly American Sign Language (ASL) can convey a complex and moving narrative. This trilogy and the way in which it has been presented to the Boston and Cambridge communities not only reaches across a chasm of time to help us to feel what the denizens of Ware must have felt, but it also builds what we must hope is a more permanent and sturdy bridge between the local Deaf community and those of us who communicate through spoken word.
Throughout the trilogy, Ms. Ware writes brilliantly and evocatively - weaving from language and ASL signs characters we come to care about at a deep level. Through the course of the three plays, we see them develop, handle conflict and deprivation, challenges and disappointments, doubt and ignorance. Some grow to a place of understanding, others retreat, still others die or move away. And we care about each of their fates.
In this final installment, many of the seeds that the playwright has sown in the earlier plays come to full flower. Ricky Ricks has gone off to Belgium to fight in WWII, and has been counted as Missing In Action. His little brother, Buddy, refuses to believe the his big brother is never coming home, and busies himself in frenetic activity - looking to spot German planes, trying to capture an escaped prisoner. Nell Hicks, often taunted by the town folk as a witch, remains in isolation on Dug Hill, monitoring German language short wave broadcasts - deepening the suspicion of the citizens of Ware that she is up to no good. She harbors many secrets, some of which she shares in confidence with deaf Tuc, who feels the need to betray that trust and alert Girl that she is needed back in Ware. Tuc is offered a lucrative position as a mechanic in a factory in far away Akron, Ohio, and has to make a gut wrenching decision between clinging to the past or venturing out boldly into the future. Each character, in his or her own way, teeters on a knife edge between strife and peace. It is Mother Hicks who articulates this truth, but it applies broadly to each of the principal characters. The resolution of the various tensions and dilemmas is deeply touching. I not only wept - I sobbed. The telling of the story is that moving.,
Directors Lee Mikeska Gardner and Maggie Moore Abdow tease out of this fine cast some memorable and moving performances. They are supported ably by John McGinty as Director of Creative ASL, who helps to turn the use of ASL in these performances into a thrilling art form. Lighting is by Taylor Hansen, Sound by Nathan Leigh, Costumes by Nancy Ishihara and Set by Janie Howland.
Cast members for "The Edge of Peace" are:
- Elbert (EJ) Joseph as Tuc
- Stewart Evan Smith as Voice of Tuc
- David Sullivan as Buddy Ricks
- Veronica Anastasio Wiseman as Nell Hicks
- Nile Hawver as Ricky Ricks, Soldier
- Alan R. White as Clovis P. Eudy
- Gale Argentine as Izzy Ricks
- Stephanie Cotton-Snell as Alma Ward
- Christie Lee Gibson as Margaret
- Kristen Leigh as June
- Kelly Chick as Girl
- Elizabeth Keegan as ASL Performer
- Adrianna Kathryn Neefus as ASL Performer