Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Book of Days

Saint Joan, gourmet cheese and murder seem to be an odd combination. However, all three are running themes in Lanford Wilson's play, Book of Days. Now at Arena Stage, Book of Days focuses on the fictional Dublin, Missouri and its small-town sensibilities.

Jennifer Mudge and Brian Keane
The residents of Dublin are churchgoing folks. The local cheese factory employs most of the town and they live a pretty provincial life. The local community theater is doing Saint Joan and the factory bookkeeper, Ruth Hoch, has been cast in the lead. A big-time professional director has come to town to oversee the show and there is a lot of talk about him. However, the real excitement begins when a prominent member of the community is murdered and Ruth takes it upon herself to discover the identity of the killer.

Arena's presentation of this play is quite interesting. The stage itself looks like a miniature town made up of dollhouses. Designed by Michael Brown, the miniatures give the set a unique look. These pieces are also utilitarian. The houses are pushed and pulled into place by the actors and are even transformed into pieces of furniture at times.

The play itself is quite engrossing despite the fact that the plotline is highly predictable. The old "you can't judge a book by its cover" premise has been done before. However, the parallels drawn with Saint Joan do provide a compelling angle.

Jennifer Mudge is riveting as the determined Ruth, and the role really allows her to show off her range. As Ruth's husband Len, Brian Keane is endearing. He is able to capture the sensitivity of the character without neglecting his more aggressive side. Linda Stephens plays Martha, Len's mother. Her portrayal of the freewheeling former hippie is superb. Helen Hayes Award nominee, Susan Lynsky (The Laramie Project), once again shows her versatility with a spirited portrayal of the saucy Ginger Reed. Finally, television veteran Mark Pinter is perfect as the slightly questionable director.

Book of Days reveals that when you scratch beneath the surface, what lies beneath can sometimes be ugly. However, it also proves that as a society, we are eager to find what is hidden. Book of Days runs at Arena Stage through March 30th.

Arena Stage - The Fichandler Theatre
Book of Days
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg
February 21 - March 30
1101 Sixth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or

Cast List

Jefferson Breland: Earl
David Fendig: Reverend Bobby Groves
Scott Janes: James Bates
Brian Keane: Len Hoch
Susan Lynsky: Ginger Reed
Monette Magrath: Louann Bates
Jennifer Mudge: Ruth Hoch
Mark Pinter: Boyd Middleton
Linda Stephens: Martha Hoch
David Toney: Sheriff Conroy Atkins
Jack Willis: Walt Bates
Jade Wu: Sharon Bates

Photo by Scott Suchman

-- Tracy Lyon

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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