This past week, I got to take a trip to American Falls, Idaho, courtesy of Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of “American Falls” by Miki Johnson. It was a very rewarding adventure. Director Raymond Bobgan took a personally unique approach to creating this piece, by setting aside his usual complex, intense, and layered creation process, and imbued a more traditional approach. In doing so, the play evolved directly from the pre-written script, adept direction, and utilizing trusted actors who embody these characters with clear, precise, and emotional depth.
What is incredible about the play, is that it is Miki Johnson‘s first play, which received its 2012 world premiere at The Catastrophic Theatre. The play follows 8 characters that reveal themselves and parts of their life stories in a series of monologues, albeit three of those characters are in a scene together. The stories do cross at some point, which lends itself to some moving juxtaposition. When you consider any town or neighborhood, there are also stories to be told, and secrets to be revealed.
The actors are tremendous in their execution. Some of their personifications touched me deeply. Darius Stubbs, as Billy Mound of Clouds, is a gracious narrator of sorts. Stubbs creates an affable and engaging storyteller, who has a sublime sense of comedic timing. He is the Garrison Keillor of American Falls. Stubbs is real, down to earth, and an artist of the highest caliber. And once again, I am a hot mess about the performance of Chris Seibert. Every time I see Seibert perform, I continually get blown away by her craft. Here, she transforms herself into Samantha, who has taken too many swigs of the bottle, and bore too many children for her own sanity. Speaking from a celestial place, Seibert is funny, tough, and physically and vocally morphs into a dramatic and fascinating portrait of a damaged woman. Adam Seeholzer creates the dramatic arc of Eric, by emotionally layering himself during a tragic journey of coping with reality. Seeholzer gives a beautiful performance, as he slowly guides us through his character’s dysfunction. I thought this was a beautifully paced reveal, with a nuanced dance of illumination.
Faye Hargate, as Lisa, demonstrated a strong communication of grief, and despair. Her entire performance, as was Seibert’s, is delivered from a stool, with powerful results. Hargate is a master of becoming a complete emotional communicator. Lovely work. The characters Eric, Matt and Maddie (PJ McCready, Ryan Edlinger, and Dionne D. Atchison) handle their scene work with sharp focus, and relaxed normalcy. Anthony Sevier did a great job staying in focus, and handling the odd scene with Seeholzer. Impressive work from one so young.
Bobgan did a great job of casting and guiding this production. All the actors had clear and focused communication with the audience. Scenic Designer Aaron Benson created a pleasing set. Excellent use of the space, and I thought that the circled couch area, reminded me of a monument circle in the middle of a town, except the monument was Billy Mound of Clouds, as master narrator. Jakyung Seo created a wonderful aura of lighting design. Angelina Herin costumed beautifully, and killed it with Specialty Makeup. Stage Manager Sarah Lynne Nicholas called a beautiful show.
Another fascinating experience at Cleveland Public Theatre, as characters are inhabited with unrestrained focus and depth.
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$12-$28 General Admission
Cleveland Public Theatre
James Levin Theatre
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102