Fine Performances By The UA Drama Department Can't Save This Self-Indulgent Mellow Drama.
By Jana Rivera
THE TINY TOWN of Judevine, Vermont, population 200, holds all the contradictions of life: the extraordinary beauty of mountains filled with oak and pine trees, and the extreme ugliness of life that drives a woman to harm her child; tolerance and acceptance keeping pace with intolerance and bigotry; knowledge of the simple joys coexisting with vast ignorance.
Judevine was first introduced by David Budbill in a collection of poems, then adapted by the author to a full-length play, now showing at the UA Arizona Repertory Theatre.
Judevine is a fictional town, but it could be any small town in our country. It appears ideal to an outsider looking in, quaint and serene, and equally so to some who have found peace there. But to others it's only a place to get away from someday. You might know Judevine--it might be the place you left not so many years ago.
Budbill offers the usual's in small town layout: the Post Office, the gas station, the bar/restaurant, the city clerk's office. Then he adds an intriguing array of small-town characters including Antoine, the happy-go-lucky, swearing French immigrant logger; Tommy, the not-so-well-adjusted Vietnam vet; Grace, the single mother living tough and proud with her promiscuous reputation; and Alice, the lesbian, Harley-riding junk dealer.
Nineteen fresh, new faces--all sophomores in the UA drama program--portray more than 30 characters in a sort of linear fashion. In other words, David Budbill, played by Adam Slusser, metaphorically walks us through Judevine introducing us to one resident after another.
Just as all is not well with the town of Judevine, all is not well with the adapted-from-poetry play, Judevine. It takes about 140 minutes to meander through the town and the play, and while it offers moments of inspiration through the struggles and joys of these simple folk, some of it is just damn dull.
It exhibits a poet's self-indulgent act of wanting to hear the words he'd so poetically put on paper. His play would have more impact, more emotion and more meaning if he'd simply had guts enough to edit; because buried in the mundane were scenes strong enough to move one to tears, and scenes funny enough to move one to laughter.
Just take along a reliable companion to wake you during the good parts, because you'll want to catch a few zzz's during the many scenes that drag beyond the point of interest and beyond the point of advancing character or play. They are merely there, it seems, because they have poetic words attached to them.
But in spite of the loose script, the talented, young UA cast makes a good showing. Not only do they offer professional performances, but they creatively contribute all sound effects including chainsaws, Harley-Davidsons and bird calls.
The UA drama department is full of talented actors, and this new group is no exception. A few worth mentioning: Slusser as David, Nathan Paul Krause as Roy McInnes, and Dana Ferrara as Antoine (although his French accent may be a bit too authentic--he's hard to understand).
On this full stage, however, one young actor shines with range and depth: T.C. O'Donnell in the role of Grace, a role that requires sweeping emotions which she delivers with apparent ease.
Arizona Repertory Theatre's production of Judevine continues with performances at 8 p.m. through February 10, with 2 o'clock matinees February 10 and 11, at the Marroney Theatre in the UAFine Arts Complex. Tickets are $10 and $12, with discounts for seniors and students. Call 621-1162 for information.
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