Cry of the Mountain
nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
October 14, 2012
If you enjoy solo-performance, be certain to check out the third annual United Solo Theatre Festival. Running at Theatre Row on 42nd Street through November 18th, this year’s United Solo features 100 short theatrical productions from around the world, the majority of which will only run once. Take a chance, pick a day, and take in some of the rich and varied offerings this delightful festival has to offer.
Documentary plays are an interesting breed of theatre: Interviews are reenacted, a topical, often controversial subject is examined, and - ideally - the work educates as well as it entertains. A documentary play about mountaintop removal in Appalachia, its environmental impact, and its political implications, Cry of the Mountain aims for the top of the mountain and solidly hits its mark.
This one-woman show conceived and performed by Adelind Horan was born out of her senior thesis project in college (I will assume she got an A). Horan conducted interviews with coal miners, members of the industry, and residents of affected communities to create verbatim monologues before weaving them together. A native of rural Virginia, Horan seems to know these people, accents, and mannerisms as well as she knows herself, and while she sometimes employs a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor, she treats all with respect – even those viewpoints on the subject with which she personally disagrees.
Ray Nedzel directs Horan’s 60-minute work with a keen eye for detail and ear for natural delivery. I must also commend the addition of guest banjo player Bud Branch to the proceedings. Without a single word spoken, Branch’s lilting music and salt-of-the-earth presence spoke volumes about the community represented here. In terms of design, Horan utilizes an entire clothing rack full of costume bits – and a gigantic baking sheet of home baked cookies – to hilarious effect.
My one complaint, if I had to list one, was that I was occasionally distracted with what Horan’s hair was doing onstage as she whipped it back into various unkempt buns and ponytails during costume changes. It’s a small matter to address, but I’m certain that, going forward, she’d prefer to keep the audience focused on her tale, not her tresses.
If you’re not familiar with the subject of mountaintop removal, don’t feel bad: Prior to seeing Cry of the Mountain, neither was I. After the show, however, I was inspired enough to go home and do a little research on the subject myself. That to me – more than just about anything else – is the mark of an excellent piece of thought-provoking theatre. Horan may have completed her run at this year’s United Solo, but hopefully there will be a longer run in the cards for this well-executed work.