By Joseph Pratt
Portsmouth Little Theatre (PLT) remains, in my opinion, one of the strongest local theatrical companies that I’ve had the pleasure of watching from Athens to Huntington. The theatre’s strength comes from such dedicated board members who are more than involved, but provide the lifeblood of each show. Recent production, Clybourne Park, reminded me this.
The show’s director, Jason Chaney, who has been involved with nearly every show at PLT for 12 years, remains to be one of my favorites. He serves as president and is responsible for building the thoughtful and immaculate sets that adorn the shows.
The set built for this show was massive, in the sense of what it set out to accomplish. A classic, boxed-in set with stationary walls made up the set for two radically different acts.
The first set was slightly less impressive, but only because it showed an empty room in which a family is supposed to be moving from. The only change that could have made a difference would have been to add more decorative furniture or items lying around, waiting to be boxed, only to show the first family was of a more comfortable wealth, rather than just having an empty set with a few boxes.
The second set was the same shell as the first, set fifty years later and completely torn apart beyond repair. It was impressive how much changed in the sets and I found myself looking all over the various details, from stray wires to bare sockets. It was an amazing transition.
The only scene change was during intermission, so it wasn’t too hard to wait for, but it was still a painful thirty minute block. I wished it were quicker, but I guess investing in the time made for the truly impressive second set that was nearly indistinguishable from the first.
I thought that the design was done very fitting for the small PLT stage and I was once again impressed by Chaney’s work.
Chaney stole the show through his portrayal of Jim, along with partner Michael Stapleton, and assistant director Heather Meadows.
Chaney and Stapleton both played characters radically different from their own personalities and from their usual casting. Stapleton was a very awkward character that brought a delicious and hilarious tension that was very enjoyable. His role was made better if you’ve experienced him in other shows or personally know him, because he is typically a very smooth talker and careful on word choice.
I was impressed the most by Meadows, however. Outside of seeing her in a minor role in a previous show, I was unsure of how she would hold herself on a stage with such talented and seasoned actors, but I felt myself laughing at her lines and seeing the truth in her words much more than some of the others. If this show was a taste of what is to come from Meadows, I am very excited to see her land more roles in the future, because I believe another PLT star was born.
An honorable mention also needs to be be had for young actor Jerome Evans, who recently graduated from West Portsmouth High School. Outside of a few shows from his high school years, this was the actor’s first adult performance in a major role. He handled it very well and I didn’t once miss the authenticity in his performance.
Overall, I was happy to see this play and to have been reminded that PLT is a closely knit group of talented individuals who make the impossible sometimes seem possible, on a small stage and with challenging work.
I would gladly sit through another performance.
The final opportunity to catch the show will be Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Portsmouth Little Theatre.
Don’t miss the chance to see skilled locals tackle the sensitive, but relevant, topic of race, gender, and other various inequalities and prejudice. Each line is delivered with truth, with actors who breathe life into their roles on another winning set.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.