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Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

Windfall Theatre travels to 'The Petrified Forest'

Capable production of Robert Sherwood’s 1930s drama

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Windfall Theatre makes a trip to the edge of the desert with Robert Sherwood’s 1930s drama The Petrified Forest. The ensemble encounter set in a desolate roadside diner in Arizona is the story of a group of people who all seem emotionally restless in different ways. There’s a weighty depth to it that Windfall competently explores in its production.

The ensemble manages an entertaining, balanced dynamic throughout. Randall T. Anderson shrewdly plays Jason Maple, the man who runs the diner. Amanda J. Hull capably navigates through the psycho-emotional subtleties of his daughter, Gabrielle, who works at the diner while longing to escape from the vacuum of rural Arizona. An ostensibly peaceful day is broken up by the sudden arrival of an unsuccessful author and, subsequently, a gangland fugitive seeking refuge at the diner.

Marquette graduate Joe Picchetti plays the failed writer. Intellectually romanticizing his own uncertainty, the character feels kind of like a weak parody, but Picchetti manages to ground him well enough. As gangster Duke Mantee, Robert W.C. Kennedy has a sympathetic kind of exhaustion about him. The character knows he hasn’t much time left. Kennedy avoids letting the character’s sense of impending doom drown out the more intricate aspects of his interaction with his hostages and his colleagues.

The romantic and melodramatic fugues in Sherwood’s script are a bit difficult to take seriously. Any modern production of the drama would have difficulty with this material. Windfall does a pretty good job of meeting the challenges with an earnest production of the decades-old story.  

Windfall Theatre’s production of The Petrified Forest runs through March 1 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Ave.

 

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