HART knows how to mix it up.
Fresh off a spectacularly successful run of the Broadway favorite "Mame" on its Main Stage, HART takes advantage of its sprawling campus and moves its audience to the more intimate space of its Fangmeyer Theatre for John B. Keane's two-act, one-set "The Field."
The thinking-person's sturdy dialogue, delivered with Irish brogues that would fool St. Patrick, takes place in Flanagan's Pub in a small village in southern Ireland.
In a nutshell, "The Field"is a play about land. The love of it and the need to own it. Forebearers of many folks in western North Carolina emigrated from Ireland. From generation to generation they passed down their passion for property. Passion for the dirt winds a common path through literature.
The field is what "The Bull" McCabe has been tending for years as a tenant. It's his expectation that he'll become the owner someday when Mrs. Butler, his long-time landlord, dies. Acquisition of that field has been the hateful curmudgeon's only dream.
Skip to when Mrs. Butler announces she's going to sell the field on the auction block. McCabe comes up with a convoluted plan to rig the auction in his favor. Then a stranger shows up. An outsider. Keane writes the interloper as an Englishman. HART brilliantly casts newcomer Caleb Owolabi in the part. It's not often Black performers audition for HART productions. Here's hoping we see the talented Caleb Owolabi on HART stages soon and often.
What happens to McCabe's master plan for taking what he's convinced he's entitled to? If there is a murder, will people know about it? And if so, will they tell? The second act is chock full of intense dialogue taking us to a place we may not want to go. Saturday night's audience was quiet as church mice as the plot unfolded.
HART productions are the perfect place to make new friends. Sitting next to this reviewer Saturday night was writer Sally Weiss who moved here 16 years ago from Washington, D.C. and is a regular theatre-goer.
"I'm just breathless. This is crafted and acted so well," she said. "I was delighted to find HART when I moved here. My season ticket here doesn't cost me as much as two tickets for one performance in D. C."
Her friend sitting on Weiss's other side was in a pickle, though: "I just don't know if I like seeing Steve play the heavy," she said.
Indeed, HART's long-time executive director Steve Lloyd plays the lead, something he rarely does these days unless he has to step in at the last minute to cover a role in an emergency. As Thady "The Bull" McCabe, a crude bully and more, Lloyd leaves no one wondering about his talent. A former card-carrying member of Actors Equity. Lloyd earned his chops performing, years before he and Waynesville discovered each other. It's an honor to get to watch him onstage.
"The Field's" cast is large. Most are HART veterans and favorites: Tom Deweese; Strother Stingley and his wife, Tabitha Judy; Erin McCarson; Anna Burrell Roberts; Ryan Albinus; Jerrod Killillay and first-timers on the HART stage Caleb Owolabi and J. R. Roberts. All are extraordinary and bring their strengths by the wheelbarrow-load to their roles. David Anthony Yeates, who doubles as Dandy McCabe, is the director of this outstanding ensemble. Yeates was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. It's apparent "The Field" is in his soul. He successfully conveys to his splendid cast his vision for this important Irish play. They get it. You will, too. "The Field" is a perfect place to spend an August evening.
Mary Ann Enloe is a life-long Hazelwood resident who has been active in local government and the arts. She has served as mayor of Hazelwood, a Haywood County Commissioner, was a founding member of the Haywood County Arts Council and has been active in numerous other activities and organizations through the years. She covers arts and entertainment issues in Haywood County, especially bluegrass, and is a writer for The Biltmore Beacon.