Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Beneath the rocky surface of Fall Springs, a fictional town somewhere in America, there's potential for fracking. The lines within "Hydraulic Fracturing" further explain that by drilling, pumping and filing, "Oil that's trapped can exhale." A few people, led by Mayor Robert Bradley (Matt McGrath) and corporate type Beverly Cushman (Ellen Harvey), believe that if the oil is properly mined and developed, there's promise to manufacture various creams and ointments. In other words, fracking could lead to dollars found. They are optimists.
Someone who did not feel this way was the late mother of adolescent Eloise Bradley (Alyse Alan Louis) and wife of Mayor Bradley. As a geological scientist, she died after descending into a cave to find a particular specimen. Eloise, wearing glasses and carrying around notes, succeeds her mother. She looks nerdy but is smart and unafraid. Her father, however, is ready to assign blame for his wife's death to others. One who might qualify, in this regard, is Noland Wolanske (Ken Marks), a man of some age who could be deemed aging hippie, vagrant, or perceptive seeker of truthtake your pick. His view of the world isn't all that far from Eloise's.
A group of young people in the town, all of whom have single parents, have formed a rock band. Members include Felix Cushman (Sam Heldt), who has an obvious crush on Eloise, Cooper Mitford (Jorrel Javier), who plays drums, and Vera Mariposa (L.E. Barone).
Mayor Bradley desperately wants to keep his daughter away from scientific investigation. He would simply rather prepare for the town's half-centennial celebration. He also feels that fracking might be a key to fiscal stability for many residents. Fall Springs is a multi-theme show. Can each of the kids forge peace with one parent? Will Felix's awkward but completely endearing yearning for Eloise be reciprocated? What about generations: do the teenagers and the middle-aged adults find common ground? And will the town ultimately survive?
That might sound like a great deal to compress into a musical with a running time of about two hours and twenty minutes. Fortunately, the musical numbers are insightful. During the first act, "Gimme Science" speaks for itself. It is an Eloise solo and its vast vocal range is challenging to sing. Felix, an instrumentalist, voices his personal concern in "The Bass Player's Lament." Sam Heldt, here and elsewhere, showcases a lovely, soothing voice.
After intermission, it's clear that townspeople are caught in a difficult predicament. Something has happened and everyone sings: "There's just no way, no way to know, how will we get ourselves out of this shit show? There's just no way, no way to grieve when it's impossible even to believe."
Much later, the production finale "One Arm" includes this: "One land that we all have to share. One heart that we'll have to repair. We don't know what the answer is, but we'll harness all our differences for one chance at one life."
Brackett's direction, Patrick McCollum's choreography, musical supervision by Vadim Feichtner, and musical direction by Mike Pettry come together and the cumulative result is a product which is both fresh and meaningful. Even if some cast members have more lines than others, all are significant participants. In some ways, the linchpin for the story is the passing of the giving, proactive geological scientist. Both the mayor and his daughter are reactive to her and what she believed.
Fall Springs, through August 31, 2019, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets, call 413-236-8888 or visit BarringtonStageCo.org.