This weekend, the Walden Theater begins its run of Arthur Miller’s The American Clock, a frenzied and anxious play of vignettes exposing the tattered desperation of the Great Depression. The Walden Theatre promotes the exploration of the arts by leading youth theater programs and productions. With The American Clock, they have put together an exciting and riveting night of theater that I enjoyed immensely.
As said, the play itself follows multiple people representing different facets of those affected by the 1929 stock market crash. Sometimes the characters recur and sometimes not, but the story shows all as part of one devastated country. Loss of money or land, forced marriage, robber barons, starvation, destitution and more are woven together to capture the utter disbelief of a people to see their strong nation sink so low.
The production itself proved marvelous. Director Lucas Adams presented the play in the round, and much of the action took place near the seating. It allowed a closeness with the material, folding the audience into the characters. An outline of the United States ran along the floor, appearing like a chalk outline at a murder scene. On the back wall, a projection screen displayed different slides in line with the play, adding context and allowing a greater emotional connection.
Though all the cast performed impressively, particularly for their age, a few utterly gifted actors stood out. Allison Spanyer as Rose Baum presented a layered, complex character that showed a believable portrayal as both a mother in the 30’s and the unstable, barely masked fury that so many surely held. Carter Caldwell, as the opportunist banker, acted delightfully as a sort of wise-guy Greek chorus. He told his story to the audience like they were his drinking buddies and he was thirty years older.
Reflecting on this play and its young players, it is interesting to wonder if they find any echoes within the modern economic turmoil and the one they act out. Does this reflect any part of their experience and does it add more to their parts? Watching, of course I couldn’t tell, but to these young actors’ credit, they found and delivered the emotional notes necessary, putting on a very good play that I recommend heartily.
The play will run this weekend and next with matinee performances on February 25th and March 3rd. For more information, contact Walden Theatre at (502) 589-0084 or visit http://www.waldentheatre.org/.
Photos: Harlan Taylor 2012, use courtesy of Walden Theatre.