In 1961 when Elia Kazan directed Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in the William Inge screenplay of Splendor in the Grass, America was not so far removed for the mores of the 1930s and the splendid na?Øvet?© of that bygone era.
As our heroine quotes from William Wordsworth’s 1807 ode, “-Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind-” she so aptly comments that it means that youth sees things rather idealistically. The play does not; it follows the paths of two other star-crossed lovers trying to rebuild their lives.
The small Midwestern town’s almost Victorian relationships of the late ’20s, when this play begins, are quite different than they are in today’s overly sophisticated society. It may be hard for younger audiences to equate to the fact that “good” girls don’t smoke, drink and let a boy kiss them on their first date.
However, the audience at the Pierce College Theatre production of the play, adapted for the stage by F. Andrew Leslie, enjoyed themselves almost as much as the student actors who preformed for them.
Breann Walker is Deannie Loomis, the high school girl whose world begins to fall apart along with her relationship with Bud Stamper, played by Sparky Garrison. Both, as are all of the cast members, are students at the college. Likewise, both held up their roles quite well.
Jeff Hoadley and Kathy Harrison play Deannie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Loomis, respectively. Hoadley also plays Arnold while Harrison doubles as Miss Metcalf, the high school English teacher. As the Metcalf, Harrison is the stereotypical straight-laced teacher anyone over 60 remembers with dread when they stared at the classroom blackboard.
Luke Weaver and Ella Rose Just are Mr. and Mrs. Stamp. Weaver turns in a fine performance and is one of the stronger members of the cast. Just also doubles as June, a fellow classmate.
Other cast members who “double in brass” are Arthur Howell as the two doctors Smiley and Judd and Matthew Long as classmates Rusty and Glenn. Amber Gibson is Kay and Jeremiah McQuiston is Johnny.
Sylvia Lund does a very nice job as the “fast” girl at the small-town high school.
Katlin More is wonderful as Bud’s “Lost Generation” sister, Ginny, and later as his Italian wife Angelina.
But a special rave to Blake York as Toots, the comical chum who clumsily tries to woo Deannie. His timing is perfect and his casual acting manor makes him quite real.
The play is directed by Fred Metzger, the coordinator of the Speech/Theatre/Digital Film program at the Fort Steilacoom campus of the college, although Metzger admitted that “the cast almost directed themselves.” He said that it was one of the most congenial casts with which he has ever worked.
Metzger has striven to incorporate many phases of media into the school’s theatrical efforts during the past several years. In some cases, it has worked admirably. However, in this production, the background music was a bit disconcerting as was the rear projection cloud formations on the upstage screen.
The set, designed by Craig B. Wollam, symbolic to interesting extremes, from the two platforms for each household divided by a raked center area to the wooden sculpture adorning the upstage wall. On examination, the sculpture resembles a hodgepodge of pick-up sticks, casually tossed into a melee, much like Deannie’s life.
Splendor in the Grass continues at the Pierce College Theatre November 12, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. and November 16 and 17 at 10 a.m. The November 11 opening night performance was signed for the hearing impaired, something which may be done at any production with a 10-day advance request by calling (253) 964-6228/TTY. For reservations call the theatre box office at (253) 964-6710.
by Lynn Geyer