Also see John's review of Channeling Kevin Spacey
Set in the Glades of South Florida, Cane begins in 1928, the year of the great Okeechobee hurricane. Eddie and Ruthie Wilson (Gregg Weiner and Julie Rowe) are farmers who own a small store. Like their neighbors who are also farmers, they depend on the weather to provide them with the crops to survive. In the midst of a drought, neighbor Noah Brooks (David Nail) comes to Eddie for assistance. Their deal falls apart as the rains begin, and the hurricane is at hand. Acts of betrayal arise from the need for self-preservation amidst such great devastation. But, even surrounded by death and destruction, there is new life. One of the workers on Eddie's land, Harriet (Trenell Mooring), goes into labor as the hurricane hits, and it is possible that the child's father is Eddie's own son. The second act is set in the present, when the same land is once again suffering from drought. The descendants of the families in the first act deal with conflicting desires of what should become of the land. The relationships between their ancestors is mirrored in their own, and once again possible acts of betrayal arise.
The set designed for this space places the audience on three sides of a worn storefront and surrounding crusty, muddied lands. The expanse and texture of the ground, and the wall of the dyke holding back the waters of Lake Okeechobee that frames the back of the set, completely immerse the audience in the time and place of the play. The actors prowl the uneven surfaces of the set with ease and familiarity. Their staging is beautifully choreographed. Though they are playing to three sides, the focus is always clear to the audience, and always seemingly spontaneous.
The cast masterfully makes each conversation feel fresh and organic, and tangibly establishes the tension between their characters. Gregg Weiner's performance nears brilliance. His interpretation of the character of Eddie makes the character's choices logical rather than villainous. They become choices many people would make given the same situation. Weiner has a knack for making what he says look like it really is the first time he's ever said it. David Nail creates a dirt covered Noah Brooks that is fascinating in his physicality. The actors have a firm grasp of the language and accent indicative of Floridians living in this part of the state at the time.
Aside from the presentational nature of Zora's (Trenell Mooring) monologue in the second act, and an ending that doesn't really tie everything together, Cane features excellent writing and some truly impeccable acting.
Cane will be appearing at the Florida Stage through November 28, 2010. The theater is located at the Rinker Playhouse of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts at 701 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Florida Stage performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or visiting www.floridastage.org.
Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network. They are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Development Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. The Florida Stage remains the only professional theatre in Southeast Florida producing exclusively new and emerging works.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of United Scenic Artists
+Designates member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
Photo: Ken Jacques Photography