Playwright: Michael Kras
Director: Michael Kras
Cast: Matthew Blackshaw, Alisa Blanchard, Robert Brown, Devin France, Jesse Horvath, Danny Johnston, Philip Krusto, Kayla Mazepa, Concetta Roche, Kit Simmons, Hannah Wayne.
‘Jamie’s Gone’ is a VERY strong ensemble piece, and it managed to surprise me at the end. It has been a very long time since a piece of theatre surprised me with an ending…so good. So good! Dark enough themes that audiences will sometimes feel awkward about rising to applaud at the end…but they will. I always enjoy a show where every character is shown for their flaws and intentions…and where the impact each character has on their community strongly affects the storyline.
Each character is well-crafted and portrayed with skill…enough to make me want to know SO much more about each one, but alas, there is only so much time to talk about how folks have ended up in Vernon, a town where everyone seems to be working hard, but not all that glad to be where they are. The point is, though: Jamie is gone. A young boy in the town, he was playing in the field, and now we don’t know where he is. While meeting the rest of the town and learning about how they’re feeling affected by this event, we’re also occasionally seeing Gertrude Collins (Jamie’s mother) as she wrestles with the heightening feelings of fear in losing her son.
Disclaimer: Gertrude Collins is played by Kit Simmons, who is my sister. As such, I can tell you all I want to about the nuance she’s capturing in her portrayal, and how a revisiting of early words from the script near the end is a perfect rendition of a brilliantly written script…but you may choose to take it with a grain of salt. I do gladly invite anyone who sees the show to let me know how they feel about whether the grain of salt is needed.
As I said earlier, brilliant ensemble work is the point here: leaving Jamie’s mother aside, we’re taken on a well-paced tour of Vernon and get to meet its many characters. Some working townsfolk portrayed by Danny Johnston and Nick Kozij help us connect quickly with the working nature of the town, and Devin France’s rendering of Tom Jacobs helps us experience the struggle of keeping the town together; of keeping everyone happy and everything in order.
The struggle between those three and another character is also of note later – suffice it to say that the directorial team or cast clearly has some experience in fight choreography. Concetta Roche (as Blanche Gillbeaux) and Hannah Wayne (as her sister Bonnie) remind us that not everyone has lived in this town all their life…some have arrived here by poor luck, and doing the best they can – or at least the best they want to.
There is a villainous nature to almost every character in this play – which helps to keep us guessing later – and these two do a great job showing self-serving intent while keeping us partially on their side. The need to turn self-serving that arises by the bad luck of being in Vernon is best punctuated by Rev. Richard O’Reilly (Jesse Horvath) and his wife Cosntance (Kayla Mazepa). Jesse Horvath keeps me very focused on learning more about Richard O’Reilly and what moves him to act in the ways he does.
The innocence of Edwin Hooper (portrayed by Alisa Blanchard) is so different than the rest of the characters that you may anticipate some darker aspect…but Edwin may just be as innocent as Edwin seems, and may just be a subtle warning of things to come…just as John Packer (played by Matthew Blackshaw) might be. John Packer is the man running the general store, you see, and so he can be the first person to notice routines changing around the mysterious goings-on surrounding Jamie’s disappearance.
One of those mysterious goings-on? Bill Perkins. Robert Brown plays Bill Perkins, a character whose intentions are unclear, and who is shrouded in mystery and suspicion for the majority of our time knowing him (he does not enter at the beginning of the play). I believe that if observed very carefully, Robert Brown’s portrayal does actually reveal more than the rest of the townsfolk are willing to see…and I think the layers in the character are what make him interesting to the audience, if all the more suspicious to the rest of the townsfolk. As I said at the beginning: the ending was surprising to me. In seeing it a second time, I’ll be watching more carefully to see if I can spot the twist coming…and I think some of the foreshadowing might be locked into the portrayal of Bill Perkins.
My recommendation to you? Go see it…and see if you can guess what’s coming. Bet you can’t!