The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings






Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp Review

I spoke with Mrs. Letempkin. She said I could live with her until I graduate.— Frances
Oh I bet she did. That bitch. She has spent her life being selfish. Never married. Never had children of her own. Then she wakes up one day and realizes she’s all alone. That’s why she’s latched on to you. She’s sad and lonely and using you.— Mary

Sarah Lord and Tasha Lawrence (seated) in Bhutan
(Photo: Chip Porter)
Times are tough for the middle-class blue collar Conroy family in Tremont, New Hampshire. Their sprawling farm has been in the family for generations. It is now surrounded by up-scale housing developments, mini-mansions and even more worrisome to them, a new class of people. The Conroys are losing clout and prestige in the newer core community and have not had an easy time since the death of the family patriarch, a plumber killed by a lightning bolt. It remains for the robust widow Mary Conroy (Tasha Lawrence) to try to make ends meet by working at various jobs and also by selling off fifty five acres to a wealthy 68 year-old neighbor Nora Letempkin. It seems that Letempkin (unseen) has taken Mary’s bright 16 year-old daughter Frances (Sarah Lord) under her wing, and triggered her imagination with tales of her trips to foreign places notably Bhutan. To Mary's chagrin, she has also inspired in Frances a desire to apply for college.

Mary’s sister Sara (Amy Redford), whom Frances calls "Aunt," is a tough cookie and a frequent visitor to the farmhouse where she understandably fumes and frets less about losing her job as a Vet technician for giving a dog the wrong medicine than about losing her boyfriend of fifteen years. It seems he simply split when she said "no" too many times. Mary and Sara are cut from the same mold and not above taking swipes at the upscale neighbor. They take particular joy stealing signs that read "When Clinton lied. . .no one died,"and "No blood for oil," from her lawn. Frances’s one-year older brother Warren (Jedadiah Schultz), is not a scholar like his sister but a plumbing apprentice who happens to be in love with a girl from a wealthy family. When we first see him, however, he is in jail serving a fifteen year term for manslaughter.

If my assessment of the basic setup makes the play seem a bit trite and predictable, don’t be fooled. Playwright Daisy Foote has created some vivid characters, each of whom resonate with emotional honesty within a keenly observed reality. In her program bio, Foote dedicates the play "to my father and life-long inspiration — Horton Foote." Based on the excellence of this play, she can anticipate praise enough to make her esteemed father proud. As superbly directed by Evan Yionoulis, Bhutan is being presented in a fully-staged production at the Cherry Lane Theater following an encouraging workshop earlier this year. Happily the cast is the same allowing for the actors to demonstrate the art of fine tuning as well as the rewards of ensemble acting.

Foote uses a playing-with-time structure that seems to be au courant, which here allows for the past to feed the present and increase our empathy and understanding of the characters as they reveal more and more about themselves. The action moves between the dilapidated farmhouse kitchen and the prison visiting room. Laura Hyman’s realistic setting includes just enough space to indicate the prison visiting room. This is all expertly enhanced by Pat Dignan’s lighting and the clanging of cell doors, the work of sound designer Bart Fasbender.

Lord embodies Frances with a wistful longing that also reflects the desperation she feels at being trapped in a family situation without an escape clause. Her conflicted feelings are the result of Mrs. Letempkin’s nurturing and influence, her mother’s resentment of Mrs. Letempkin and her brother’

s dependency and constant need for her support. Lord's petite stature suits her character perfectly and she certainly stands out in contrast to the other women, if for nothing else than reading Jude the Obscure. Mary is an attractive and vital woman with a no-nonsense approach to keeping control of things and Lawrence fills the role with vigor and a fierce sensuality that make us think that even a new man in her life would never mellow her manner. Tall, blonde and full-figured Redford is terrific as the raucous beer-guzzling, bitter Sara, who is not afraid of a good fight, even if it is with her sister. A knock-down hair-pulling cat fight between them is a lulu.

Schultz is thoroughly convincing as Warren. He certainly makes us experience the torment of an all-consuming love and the despair he feels in an incarceration that is corrupting his nature. There is nothing corrupted about the New England dialects that the actors assume with aplomb. And there is nothing that pricks up our ears or alerts our interest more than to hear words coming from characters that ring true, and see behavior that defines who these people are, as we follow a nicely dramatized homespun yarn to its conclusion.

The Cherry Lane Theater has been nicely refurbished since my last visit though I am sorry to see that the historic tavern/restaurant next to the theater is closed. To read CurtainUp's interview with Daisy Foote at the time Bhutan was workshopped, go here.

By Daisy Foote
Directed by Evan Yionoulis
Cast: Tasha Lawrence, Sarah Lord, Amy Redford, Jedadiah Schultz
Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes no intermission
Set: Laura Hyman
Costumes: Rebecca Bernstein
Lighting: Pat Dignan
Sound: Bart Fasbender
Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street off of 7th Ave South
From October 19 to December 9, 2006; opening October 29th
Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 3pm and 8pm; Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 3pm and 8pm Friday and Saturday at 8pm Tickets: $50, Fri & Sat, $45 all other performances (212/239 - 6200)
Student Tickets with Valid I.D. - $10
Direct Women talkback series after every Tues performance.
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance October 24, 2006

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from