Compelling premiere comedy, "Row After Row," needs a bit of polish

2013-04-25T00:00:00Z Compelling premiere comedy, "Row After Row," needs a bit of polishKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago.

But some battles still rage.

Winding Road Theatre Ensemble's "Row After Row" slips between the contemporary life of three Civil War re-enactors and Pickett's Charge, the conflict at Gettysburg that they revive every year.

While the battle today isn't as bloody, it's clear that the fight goes on - between men and women, over politics, and even over a table in a bar.

This is the world premiere of "Row After Row," and while it needs some polishing, playwright Jessica Dickey has penned a 90-minute, compelling comedy.

Director Glen Coffman took a potentially confusing play and gave it clarity. The scenes and characters switch back and forth between present time and the Civil War era. Coffman used simple stage lighting and the actors physical adjustments to bring the audience back and forth in time.

The story is about two men who have long re-enacted Pickett's Charge, and a woman, who has participated in the Gettysburg event for the first time.

The ball begins to roll as the men discover she is sitting at "their" table in "their" regular post-re-enactment bar.

Emilee Foster's Leah is feisty, feminist and filled with a bit of fury about the world.

Michael Gifford is Cal, a traditionalist who just can't cotton to the idea of a woman in a Civil War battle - or one who is sitting at his barroom table, for that matter.

His sidekick Tom (Steve Wood) is not as much as a die-hard as Cal, and frankly is a bit embarrassed by his pal's behavior.

The three argue the role of women in the Gettysburg battle as well as today. They reveal stories. They fight.

Dickey uses wonderful language, and there is a naturalness to some of her dialogue.

But there are also some unresolved elements, stilted moments as the three talk, and it teeters on the verge of being didactic.

Still, this is a world premiere - that doesn't happen often enough in the Old Pueblo. And Dickey's voice is an exciting one.

This play will have a staging at New York's Women's Project next year. Dickey is likely to do revisions before that curtain rises.

But now, in Tucson, you have an opportunity to see a solid production of a work by an emerging playwright. Take it while you can.

If you go

• What: Winding Road Theater Ensemble's world-premiere production of "Row After Row."

• By: Jessica Dickey.

• Director: Glen Coffman.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 5.

• Where: Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

• Cost: $20, with discounts available.

• Reservations, information: 401-3626, or windingroadtheater.org

• Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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