The short play is staged as a concert work, with five performers. The five are playing members - grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son -of a rich WASP family in Buffalo, NY between 1935 and 1942, with a brief coda from the 1960s... This is a magical play... a nuanced reminiscence full of time and change and loss and suffering…
as well as joy.” New York Post
'ANCESTRAL VOICES’ A WARM, WITTY SNAPSHOT OF AMERICANA
'The Maine Sunday Telegram, By April Boyle, 10/23/11
It seems like just yesterday when the Good Theater opened its doors with a production of Brandon Thomas' "Charley's Aunt." In actuality, the theater is now in the midst of performing the second production of its 10th season, A.R. Gurney's "Ancestral Voices." And, to bring the apropos play to the stage, the Good Theater is revisiting its own past.
"Ancestral Voices" reunites Bob McCormack, Lee K. Paige and Stephen Underwood, three actors from Good Theater's inaugural 2002 production. The play also gives audiences the rare opportunity to see both of the theater's founders, Underwood and Brian P. Allen, performing together.
A mismatched, five-piece set of chairs, along with five music stands and two rugs, comprise the stripped-down set of "Ancestral Voices," Fittingly, two of the chairs also made their Good Theater debut in "Charley's Aunt."
Each chair has been carefully chosen to accentuate the unique personalities of the characters -- a striped, upholstered chair for the spirited grandmother; an aristocratic chair for the proper father; a velvet chair for the pampered mother; a luxurious leather chair for the affluent grandfather; and a high-back, wooden chair for the lovable Eddie.
The 90-minute, one-act play is set in Buffalo, New York between 1938-1942, with a brief coda in 1960. It's staged as a concert work, with the five performers reading from scripts, discreetly placed on the music stands in front of them. In many ways, the style resembles the old-time radio broadcasts of the play's era, but with an added bonus that radio couldn't offer listeners: priceless facial expressions and character-transforming body language.
The most dramatic character transformation is Eddie, who is both the narrator and focal character. At the opening and end of the story, Eddie is a man in his thirties. Throughout the rest of the production, though, he's a little boy, age eight to 11.
Allen won over the audience Friday with his adorable portrayal. He unleashed his inner child with boyish glee, glowing with childlike wonder and inquisitiveness. It was easy to forget that Allen is a man in his early fifties as he whined, fidgeted in his chair and scrunched up his face with expressions that captured every nuance of a child's personality.
Underwood dug into his two-part role as Eddie's grandfather and "Uncle" Roger, his grandfather's home-wrecking, former friend.
He donned glasses Friday to mark the shift in characters, but props really weren't necessary. Underwood's change in demeanor and facial expressions gave the illusion that two very different men took turns occupying the same chair.
Paige and McCormack added to the overall humor of the production as Eddie's well-intentioned but socially biased parents, Jane and Harvey.
Veteran actress Jocelyn Lavin Pollard deftly rounded out the cast as Eddie's grandmother, a woman who scandalously divorced her husband of many years to marry Roger.
"Ancestral Voices" is a sweet, funny snapshot of Americana, endearingly told through the eyes of a child. Good Theater has embraced the wit and warmth of A.R. Gurney's play, delivering a production heartwarming from start to finish.
Eddie – Brian P. Allen
Jane – Lee K. Paige
Harvey – Bob McCormack
Grandmother – Jocelyn Pollard
Grandfather – Stephen Underwood
Directed by Brian P. Allen
Lighting – Jamie Grant
Stage Manager – Justin Cote
* Member Actors' Equity Association