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Top-Notch Performances Compensate for the Lack of Heart in the Characters of The Herd

Honest Pint co-artistic director Susannah Hough stars as Carol in The Herd at NRACT

Honest Pint co-artistic director Susannah Hough stars as Carol in The Herd at NRACT

The Honest Pint Theatre Company, operating at the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, follows the early Greeks to modern times with a favorite topic for playwrights, the dysfunctional family. This British play is no exception. The Herd by Rory Kinnear, is hardly about one’s typical family. It is filled with unspoken, as well as spoken, and hinted at, deep old resentments, refreshed as frequently as a toilet flushing. And although we are warned there will be coarse language, constantly dropping the F-bomb adds nothing to the story and, frankly, becomes a bit tiresome. Tacking the C-word on is like tarnishing the loo bowl.

Let us first say that the production qualities of this show are fine. The direction, the amazing set, and the energetic and exciting performances are excellent. But these are soup and fish draped on a guttersnipe.

Playwright Rory Kinnear gives us a divorced couple who could not share the effort of dealing with a child with a serious developmental disability, their older child still suffering her perceived neglect, the maternal grandparents who seem pretty much well rounded, and a rather likable poet. This is the story of the frailties of some human beings.

We congratulate NRACT for its new look. The chairs and sturdier risers look good and feel more solid than the old arrangement. And the rebuilt stage now accommodates a lovely home, including kitchen, dining room, stairway to the second floor, and two doors left stage, one leading to the bathroom, used frequently by the grandfather, and an often used front door stage right. Scenic designer Tab May has done a wonderful job on this upscale dwelling.

Honest Pint founder and co-artistic director David Henderson has chosen a talented cast, and helps bring these characters to life. But even Henderson cannot make us care about them. The performances are top-notch, the pacing is spot-on, but the absence of heart among these characters cannot be supplied by acting.

Carol, the mother of the 21-year-old boy who has the mental capacity of a 10 month old and a 35-year-old daughter, is portrayed by Honest Pint co-artistic director Susannah Hough. Hough shows strong emotions, revealing both her love for Andy and her bitterness at her own situation.

Jess Barbour plays Claire, the whiny, self-centered daughter, whose resentfulness comes readily to the fore. Her relationship with a performing poet seems to be an act of rebellion, a kind of cliché.

Grandmother Patricia is brought to us by Lenore Field, debuting with Honest Pint. Field brings comedy to this serious family. She manages not to miss a thing, and is the bright spot in this family.

Grandfather Brian is played by Paul Newell. Newell also offers lightness and comedy to the proceedings, and his handling of the grandfatherly philosophy is gentle and adult.

Simon Kaplan is Ian, the father of Claire and Andy, and ex spouse of Carol. Kaplan does a fine job of being the former husband who has just never understood his responsibility in the situation.

Mark, the poet, is in the gentle hands of Daniel Wilson, whose accent was taut and authentic. Wilson gives us a sensitive and charming aesthete. He “gets” this family.

Honest Pint's cast for The Herd includes (clockwise from lower left) Lenore Field, Susannah Hough, Paul Newell, and Jess Barbour

Honest Pint’s cast for The Herd includes (clockwise from lower left) Lenore Field, Susannah Hough, Paul Newell, and Jess Barbour

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 30th Cary, NC RDU on Stage review by Kim Jackson: https://rduonstage.com/2019/01/30/honest-pint-theatre-companys-production-of-the-herd-is-almost-too-much-to-bear/ and Jan. 22nd podcast interview of Honest Pint Theatre Company co-artistic, directors David Henderson and Susannah Hough, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://rduonstage.com/podcast/podcast-ep-2-honest-pints-david-henderson-and-susannah-hough-talk-parenting-rory-kinnears-the-herd-and-luck-and-doggedness/; Jan. 30th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4.5 of 5 stars): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/sharp-performances-and-detailed-characterizations-thicken-th/ and Jan. 23rd mini-preview Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/honest-pint-theatre-presents-the-herd/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 26th Triangle Review review by Robert O’Connell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/01/honest-pints-first-rate-staging-of-rory-kinnears-dramedy-the-herd-is-a-must-see-show-at-nract/.)

Honest Pint Theatre Company presents THE HERD at 8 p.m. Jan. 26, 3 p.m. Jan. 27, 8 p.m. Feb. 1 and 2, 3 p.m. Feb. 3, 8 p.m. Feb. 8 and 9, and 3 p.m. Feb. 10 at the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre at 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Food Lion Shopping Center. TICKETS: $15-$20. BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228 or . SHOW: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/plays-events, http://www.nract.org/shows#/the-herd/, and https://www.facebook.com/events/2003881076375504/. VIRTUAL PLAYBILL: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/copy-of-the-herd-playbill. PRESENTER: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/honestpinttheatrecompany/, and https://twitter.com/HonestPintthe8r. VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT. MAP/DIRECTIONS: https://www.google.com/maps/. WARNING: Honest Pint warns Triangle theatergoers that this play contains “strong language and some disturbing content [emphasis added].” OTHER LINKS: The Herd (2013 West End and 2015 Chicago dramedy): https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/44457/the-herd/ (Samuel French, Inc.), https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/rory-kinnear/work/the-herd (Curtis Brown), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rory_Kinnear#Theatre (Wikipedia). Rory Kinnear (London actor and dramatist): https://actorrorykinnear.wordpress.com/ (official website), https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/rory-kinnear (Curtis Brown bio), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1239499/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rory_Kinnear (Wikipedia). David Henderson (Raleigh, NC director and founder and co-artistic director of Honest Pint Theatre Company): https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/copy-of-our-mission (Honest Pint bio), https://www.facebook.com/theatrescot (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/theatrescot (Twitter page).

REVIEWER:

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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