Shawn Stalter - Contributing Critic - Dallas/Ft. Worth
We all give lip service to slowing the pace of life to craft a more genuine “smell the roses” experience. In the meantime, we robotically consume over-caffeinated, over-priced, lattes, complain about gridlock traffic and politics while ingesting never-ending streams of social media, sitcoms and talking heads. Does the pace and focus of modern life enhance its meaning, or are most of us missing out on something more authentic?
Theatre Three’s production of “FoxFire” delivered a genuine and inspired performance exploring this time-honored debate of “tradition” versus “innovation” with quiet sophistication and grace. Audiences here found a comfortable, welcoming space for an introspective journey examining where we’ve come from and where we’re heading.
“FoxFire” is a tale which transports us to the not-so-distant past in the restful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. Here, aging Annie Nations anxiously anticipates a visit from her son, Dillard, who, years ago, abandoned the traditional rural life of his parents for a career in the cut-throat music industry. Dillard’s visit is the catalyst for a series of flashbacks which allows Annie to relive a series of memories of the simple and sincere life she crafted on her mountainside homestead with her husband, Hector. Is she ready to cut these roots and move off of the land which served as the backdrop for everything life has given her?
Theatre Three’s performance of “FoxFire” not only nailed the ideal intimate, theatre-in-the-round rural stage and lighting design but also featured a talented cast with the emotional range to pull it all together into a top-tier production. As “Hector Nations,” John. S. Davies superbly commanded the stage with a brilliant delivery of his character’s backwoodsy anecdotes, conservative worldview and scripture quotes reminiscent of Reb Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
His son, “Dillard Nations,” performed by the supremely talented and versatile Ian Ferguson, expertly crafted mounting tensions with his father as their two world views collided and tradition came face-to-face with new perspectives. Ian Ferguson also showcased his dynamic musical talent through a series of guitar numbers ranging from the upbeat to the melancholy in equal measure.
Elly Lindsay’s portrayal of the rural matriarch “Annie Nations,” was spot-on. Through her deep emotional range, the audience was able to walk in her shoes to view flashbacks of the joyous and painful memories which comprised her life. We all felt her internal struggle when faced with the gut-wrenching decision to abandon her rural homestead. Rounding out this all-star cast was Mark Quach as the manipulative real estate developer “Prince Carpenter,” Whitney LaTrice Coulter as the sweet and vibrant young neighbor, “Holly Burrell,” and Stan Graner as the “Doctor.”
At times “FoxFire” is a lighthearted, easy-going story fondly recounting the bygone days when life was “simple,” and our souls connected to the land upon which they lived. At others, it poses deeply-personal questions about the direction of modern life and asks if we’ve lost our way in our rush to disconnect from the land. Overall, “FoxFire” at Theatre Three offers audiences an engaging and genuinely introspective journey full of ample quantities of fresh mountain air.
Theatre Three’s production of “FoxFire,” directed by Emily Scott Banks, runs through April 7th. The cast includes Elly Lindsay as “Annie Nations,” John S. Davies as “Hector Nations,” Mark Quach as “Prince Carpenter,” Whitney Coulter as “Holly Burrell,” Ian Ferguson as “Dillard Nations,” and Stan Graner as the “Doctor.” Stage design is courtesy of Jeffrey Schmidt, costuming by Amy Poe, lighting by Amanda West and music supervision and sound design by Jake Nice.
Reserve a seat for this show by visiting Theatre3Dallas.com or by calling 214.871.3300, option #1. You can also secure tickets by visiting the Theatre Three Box Office located at 2800 Routh St. #168, Dallas, TX 75201.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Schmidt