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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Delightfully Tawdry ‘Another Part of the Forest’

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The trials and tribulations of the Hubbard family occupy Another Part of the Forest, American Players Theatre’s fourth seasonal offering, which opened on a suitably steamy, damp Saturday night. Love and honor are in short supply in Lillian Hellman’s Southern Gothic tale, which takes place in post-Civil War Alabama. At times it’s anyone’s guess who will remain standing at the end of the three-hour potboiler.

Marcus Hubbard (Jonathan Smoots) is a war profiteer with suspicious affiliations and genteel pretensions who can barely leave his comely daughter Regina (Tiffany Scott) alone. Wife Lavinia (Sarah Day) seems to live in a world somewhere outside of reality, while sons Benjamin (Marcus Truschinski) and Oscar (Eric Parks) spend time hatching their own alternately devious and dull-witted schemes to tap Papa’s fortune. Much like life, few get what they want, but a truncated version of the family survives.

As always, strong performances carry this delightfully tawdry narrative. Sarah Day leads the way, capturing Lavinia’s borderline madness in her trademark style. As Marcus, Smoots mixes bravado with brittleness, while Scott’s Regina wraps herself in a flirtatious cocoon that will too soon fade. Susan Shunk tugs the heartstrings as Birdie Bagtry, daughter of a family fallen on hard times, and Tracy Michelle Arnold has far too much fun as Laurette Sincee, a prostitute who is the object of Oscar’s affections.

Another Part of the Forest isn’t the noblest of productions, but everyone’s ultimate undoing makes for an interestingly devious and slightly deviant ride.

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