Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the October 22,
2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
`The Good Daughter’
Whether it has been tales from the Brothers Grimm,
plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Wendy Wasserstein, or countless
novels and film scenarios, the conflict and jealousies between sisters
have remained literary and dramatic staples through the ages. In
Good Daughter," now having its world premiere at New Jersey
Company, playwright D.W. Gregory hasn’t broken any new ground in the
familiar genre so much as she has turned the melodramatic soil just
enough to make her characters appear fresh and vital.
"The Good Daughter" continues at the Long Branch theater,
Thursdays through Sundays, to November 9.
Set in a farming community in Northwest Missouri, the play’s action
occurs between 1917 and 1924, and mostly in and around the modest
homestead of Ned Owen (Davis Hall), a stolid God-fearing widower left
with three daughters to raise.
Here Ned’s determination to keep the farm going and survive the ever
unpredictable and threatening Missouri River is as pressing as his
desire to marry off his daughters to the first men able to provide
them with good homes and the basic necessities. Unsurprisingly, the
daughters, the men in their lives, not to mention the river, have
their own motivations. Under Jason King Jones’ sturdy un-fussy
the deluge of romance, regrets, recriminations, and rebellious
that propels "The Good Daughter," takes an almost retro
course. But it is a course that, for all its contrivances, is
and skillfully constructed.
The eldest daughter, 20-year-old Cassie (Deborah Baum), is pretty
and openly discontent with her life on the farm and unwilling to
with her father’s wish that she marry Rudy Bird (Brian O’Halloran),
an awkwardly amorous neighboring farmer for whom she has no feelings.
More conciliatory toward the house rules imposed by the somewhat
Ned is Esther (Christine Bruno), the middle sister born with a
defect who has, nevertheless, assumed many of the chores of her late
mother. Despite her father’s resignation that she is not likely to
marry, she also harbors romantic notions. These are secretly directed
to Matt McCall (David Foubert), the dashing college graduate and
activist, the son of a local shop owner. Matt has recently come back
to his hometown and set as his primary goal persuading Ned and the
townsfolk to build a levee to help protect the community.
Cassie’s infatuation and open flirting with the equally
rebellious Matt doesn’t go unnoticed by the youngest daughter,
Rachel (Lea Eckert), whose sweetness is tempered by her loyalty to
her father. A scheme, hatched between Cassie and Rachel to promote
a romance between Esther and Rudy, produces an unexpected consequence.
This is no less unexpected than the reason Cassie leaves home after
Matt decides to enlist in the Army. It is seven years later when
returns home amid a flood of mixed emotions from the family and a
real flood courtesy of the Missouri River.
The play has a fine cast, all of whom are able to provide the subtler
and more pronounced changes their characters undergo. Baum’s change
from a free-spirit to a sadder and wiser Cassie is as impressive as
is Bruno’s blossoming as a self-realized Esther. Eckert is touching
as she reflects Rachel’s poignant transition from familial stability
into emotional instability, the result of a loveless marriage. It
is as revelatory a turn as the ones O’Halloran and Foubert are
to make as more mature and self-made men. Hall is excellent as Ned
who finds his fate is determined as much by a good daughter (which
one I won’t reveal) as it is by his steadfast trust in God’s
A torrential rain storm (a real curtain of rain), with thunder,
(lighting design by Jill Nable and sound by Merek Royce Press) is
impressive as is designer Fred Kinney’s barn-like structure that
to various locales. In general, the fine production values nicely
support this commendably involving play.
— Simon Saltzman
Long Branch, 732-229-3166. Www.njrep.org. $30. Show runs Thursdays
through Sundays to November 9.
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