Review: And Still The Dead Lay Moaning by Anthony Bromberg, FronteraFest at Santa Cruz Studio Theatre, January 19 - 30, 2016
by David Glen Robinson
We knew where this one was going from the title. The writing challenge for Bromberg, a local talent, was to create a deepening mystery on the cause of death of the title character. Was it murder from a terrorist attack, a suicide, advanced cancer or something else? All these options were floated sequentially as the play progressed. It all deepened and unraveled, and resolution came much later with a fair amount of surprise despite the obvious outcome.
This plot sketch describes the framework for telling the several life stories of a collection of characters, all friends, family, lovers, or colleagues of the tragic figure. This is a time-honored literary device. Bromberg creates a strong updating of the form, observing the life and values of what appears to be a peer group of 30-something professionals who cite a number of career milestones in their dialogues throughout the play.
There is, however, little condensed story-telling here. The characters’ backgrounds and relationships are revealed a few lines at a time across several scenes rather than in longer, strategically placed establishing speeches or orations. An exception and example of a more lingering and focal look at characters in And Still the Dead One Lay Moaning was Nicholas Saenz’s refreshing and dour “Peace and Laughter” speech dellivered with glowering mien. This was memorable. The dominant piecemeal approach to character building, on the other hand, required more work by the audience to keep straight who was who and what was what.
The many tasks of exposition fell to a talented cast of nine actors, large for a festival one-act. The play is dialogue-heavy and filled with wit. The actors shouldered the load with skill and very few miscues. Megan Minto as Delia, the partner of the wounded character, was the clear leader of the cast, and she conducted them successfully through more than a few arduous scenes.The sketchy festival postcard-style program gave no credit for direction. A strong hand in that role would have relieved some of the repetitive sameness of characters sitting on chairs and dialoguing Clearly the piece was more of an enacted story than a staged play.
Still, the freshness of presentation in every theatre festival was evident here.The Daliesque touches in several scenes were thoroughly enjoyable, as when a character placed a pot of artificial flowers by the door of the stage house and walked away. Another time a framed drawing of a horse was placed by the door. Why a horse? Exactly. Glad you asked.
Each character told his or her story and others’ when their lives collided, but each character’s backstory did not need to be told to accomplish the goals of the larger tale. Standouts in their roles and storytelling were Morgan Floyd, David Harrod Jr., Karina Dominguez, and the aforementioned Nicholas Saenz. In a fit of producer whimsy, Molly McKee was assigned the title role and five additional character roles; she accomplished all her stage tasks deftly.
Altogether, although the show felt long and slow-paced, And Still the Dead One Lay Moaning was a satisfying and appropriate work of festival theatre and a good check-in with Anthony Bromberg’s recent work.
January 19 - January 30, 2016
1805 E. 7th Street
Austin, TX, 78702
We've got a new venue
Santa Cruz Studio Theatre
1805 East 7th Street.
We will still be performing at the same times:
1/23 at 4:15pm
1/27 at 9:15pm
1/30 at 6:30pm
Tickets will be pay-what-you-wish at the door. (Cash or check only).