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Quality Acting Rescues Ward Theatre Company’s Honour from Its Trite Script

We are entirely welcoming of new theater companies in the Triangle area, and always hope for their success. This has been the case for the several years that we have been reviewing. We applaud Ward Theatre Company of Durham, NC, for their effort, energy, and ambition. On Sunday afternoon, we made our debut audience experience with them as they presented Honour by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith. We have to wonder what convinced them to put up this over 20-year-old play, which was trite at the time and has not improved any with age. What saves this production is the quality of the acting.

The old-hat story line is late in coming, but basically amounts to middleaged writer is seduced by younger woman and leaves his wife. If there are further insights into this tiresome phenomenon, they are not revealed in this script.

Making the movement and pace of the show, which should be considered a 90-minute piece, even more snail-like was the director’s decision to call it a 115-minute play, yet not breaking for an intermission. In scenes where Skype was used the spacing left for live speech was always much more than needed, a too noticeable error. This is probably the director’s lapse also, although the program never identifies a director, and we can only assume that it is Wendy Ward, founder of the theater.

The role of Honor is played by Nancy Ellis. (There is a distinction made by the playwright between Honour the title and Honor the character, apparently using the British spelling to mean a metaphysical state more deep than simple everyday honor.) Ellis is not allowed any emotion until well into the play, long after she has been told by her husband Gus (Tom Stackhouse) that he is leaving her. She then demonstrates a powerful handling of dramatic intensity that is believable and appropriate.

One of the problems of enjoying the efforts of these actors is a total lack of blocking. Each of the live performers enter the stage the first time carrying a small load of books which are deposited on the floor somewhere. The books are never again referred to. Furthermore, for each of the many small two-person scenes, the two enter, sit somewhere, and remain seated in the same place until the scene change. The audience craves some actual human movement. (Someone might have picked up a book and thrown it!)

Claudia, the interloper, is played by Katie Sheffield, who performs ably enough, but is also handcuffed by not being given bits of business to further develop her part. The seduction scene, a fertile field for subtextual innuendo, was as sterile as a doctor’s office.

Alexandra Petkus, who plays the daughter Sophie, does a fine job which is marred by her ending her sentences, all of which occur through Skype on tape, with a long vapid staring into the screen to allow her live partner to respond.

Ward Theatre Company has a lot to learn, but a lot of potential to entertain the Triangle area, as it is accustomed from its current complement of live theaters. We sincerely hope they succeed in the future.

SECOND OPINION: July 19th Durham, NC Herald-Sun mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/honour/Event?oid=6769257.

Ward Theatre Company presents HONOUR at 7:30 p.m. July 28, 2 and 7:30 p.m. July 29, p.m. July 30, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5, 2 p.m. Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at 4905 Pine Cone Dr., Suites 12, Durham, North Carolina 27707.

TICKETS: $26.50, including fees.

BOX OFFICE (scroll down): http://www.wardtheatrecompany.com/honour/.

INFORMATION: 917-816-2122 or ward@wardtheatrecompany.com.

SHOW: http://www.wardtheatrecompany.com/honour/.

PRESENTER: http://www.wardtheatrecompany.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/WardTheatreCompany/.

MAP/DIRECTIONS: http://www.wardtheatrecompany.com/contact/.

OTHER LINKS:

Honour (1995 Melbourne, Australia; 1998 Broadway; and 2003 West End play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=2811 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/honour-4484 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honour_(Murray-Smith_play) (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Joanna Murray-Smith (Melbourne, Australia-based playwright and screenwriter): https://australianplays.org/playwright/CP-murfit (AustralianPlays.org bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/joanna-murray-smith-6754 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_Murray-Smith (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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