A search for love, home, belonging; a mysterious love triangle; a one sided romance lacking intimacy and sizzle; a desperate attempt to clean up the mess his brother left behind...an Appalachian mountain town, desolate with no hope, prospects or opportunities, except a meth lab gone bust... These are all timely issues brought to life onstage in Joshua Rollins' '25 Saints,' directed by Ensemble member Susan E. Bowen. Now at the Greenhouse Theatre Upstairs Studio, 25 Saints features Pine Box Ensemble Members Josh Odor, with Danny Goldring, Drew Johnson, Ashley Neal, Caroline Neff, Molly Reynolds, and John Ross Wilson.
This production stars Drew Johnson as Charlie Roedel, who returns home to Appalachia, yearning for the woman Sammy (Neff), left behind by his wayward brother- creating an abstract love triangle. Set in a desolate, depressed Appalachian town in West Virginia, beset with hardship and angst, where the people, in their daily lives, seek a living in coal mining or the little known meth labs, seemingly the only means of survival. This story draws attention to the tragic plight of these townspeople, some of the poorest, shortest-lived, least educated people in our nation. Joshua Rollins, in the style of the greats, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, writes from his heart, what he knows, as a creative, talented alumnus of the school of Steppenwolf. His first collaboration with Pine Box Theatre Company was "A Girl with Sun in Her Eyes." He dedicates this production "to the hard scrabble mountain people of West Virginia, who continually fight the good fight." The play is fraught with an unusual tension, with often graphically violent scenes; yet the chemistry of the entire ensemble; in-depth character development; and well written, gritty dialogue somehow work, leaving the audience with the message that life is an ongoing conundrum, with each chapter and life journey a missing piece of the puzzle. As more truths are revealed, more questions arise. Who indeed are the real saints and sinners among us? This original play brings to mind the work by Mark Twain- "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyberg," about a so-called pristine town, where everyone is so-called morally on the up and up. Yet money, illicit affairs, lust, greed, and drug addiction can all lead to corruption, crookedness, and ultimately immorality and sin. The title name, 25 Saints, indicates that everyone wears a protective amulet against evil, as they hold steadfast in faith and belief in a higher being and entrust themselves to the Saint of Protection and travel , St. Christopher. Ideally, the characters would practice what they preach, yet greed, lust, and envy get the best of them. The town is symbolic of a dead end, with no hope or exit in sight.
Much like Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth," and O'Neill's "Moon for the Misbegotten," the characters yearn for a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The Appalachian town and mentality is captured so vividly. As their lives unravel onstage before us, their faith and belief can't seem to save from this disastrous mess. They realize that only through hard work and honest toil can they be saved. Whenever you take a shortcut, such as running a meth lab, a la 'Breaking Bad,' or anything criminal in nature, you not only doom yourself but all others in your path. Many a Shakespearean play ends with all the characters tragically dying onstage, with love unrequited. This play mirrors that quality and intensity.
Through March 31
Thursdays and Fridays 8PM
Saturdays 7 &10 PM
Sundays 3 PM
Greenhouse Theatre Upstairs Studio
2257 N Lincoln Ave. Chicago