Review: "Gladstone Hollow" at the Schoolhouse Theater

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  • Pia Haas, Contributing Critic - New York

North Salem, NY - The Schoolhouse Theater is the oldest non-profit professional theatre company in Westchester County. An old elementary school building built in 1925 and transformed into an arts center in 1983. They are devoted to bringing new, innovative, and groundbreaking programs and plays to the community. The final offering of The Schoolhouse Theater’s 34th season is Gladstone Hollow, a mesmerizing, haunting play, written by and starring two-time Emmy award winner, Dorothy Lyman.

Elizabeth (the formidable Ms. Lyman) is a fourth-generation farm woman whose family decides it’s time for her to leave the family farm, following the death of her husband. Over the course of a freezing cold President’s Day Weekend, her family gathers at Gladstone Hollow. Each of them has their own idea of what should happen. Elizabeth’s daughter, Betsy (the terrific Thea McCartan), and son in law (the impressive Frank Shiner) with equal amounts of selfishness and sincere concern, wish to sell the property and move to Florida. The land developed for tract homes along with the fracking rights to the water will make a tidy profit They feel “holding on to the past is burdensome.

Her schoolteacher granddaughter Liz (the impassioned Jeanne Lauren Smith) and her fiancé, Cornell Agriculture major, Jason (the fine Eric Bryant) both lobby to help Elizabeth keep the farm. Leaving the unpleasantness of the city behind, they envision an optimistic future working the organic farm, doing their part to fight the “impending global environmental disaster.” They are joined by Christie, (the moving Meredith Handerdan), a loyal housekeeper who has a special familial connection to Elizabeth and The Farm.

What ensues is a heart-rending struggle of deciphering misplaced priorities, learning where loyalties lie, and soul searching about what is the right thing to do. Elizabeth is faced with the prospect of selling off her old life and her connection to the land and dealing with the fear of who she would be without it.

Director, Bram Lewis has assembled a terrific cast and has done a masterful job. The show is well paced, beautifully staged, and emotionally rich.

Dorothy Lyman gives a wonderful, spirited performance, which is, at once, full of humor and pathos. The rest of the cast members are all exceptional in their respective roles. I was particularly moved by the lovely, nuanced performance of Meredith Handerhan as Christie, the daughter that Elizabeth should have had, perhaps.

Gladstone Hollow was a real place, an old dairy farm in upstate Delaware County, New York, (owned by Ms. Lyman.) Accolades to set builder, Anthony Davidson, scenic artist, Isabelle Favette, who have recreated an authentic farmhouse kitchen. Outfitted with an old Ice Box, stoneware pottery, cast iron pans, a quaint seated coat rack, an old wind up grandfather clock in the hall, and an antique Dish cupboard which houses the family valuables. The impressive lamb tenderloin served for dinner, along with fresh farm eggs completed the realistic surroundings.

Sound Designer James Higgins chose haunting incidental music as well as farm-appropriate sounds of crickets, birds, farm animals, and farm equipment to set the realistic mood. Lighting by Dennis Parichy was beautifully atmospheric and helped transport us to the Hollow. The carefully selected and coordinated costumes were by Alison Hublard Hershman.

As an added bonus, upon entering the main lobby, one is greeted by the visual riches gracing the walls. Local artists, sculptors, and photographers are well represented. Leonie Castelino’s contemporary fiber works and Mimi Czajka Graminski’s “Stitches” collection are currently in the two galleries.

And, if you are lucky, you may even score a dozen fresh eggs, compliments of Ms. Lyman from the Red Hen Farm, available for purchase in the lobby.

Take a trip to Croton Falls! See this gem of a production in a gem of a cultural center.

Through June 30th only!  Don’t miss it!  Evening and matinee performances of Gladstone Hollow will take place on The Schoolhouse Theater’s main stage,  GPS Address: 3 Owens Road, North Salem, NY 10560. Individual tickets are $38, Seniors $35 (general admission). Tickets are available via the Box Office: (914) 277-8477; or online at https://www.schoolhousetheater.org/.