Rumor has it that the widely acclaimed production of Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle, co produced by Signature Theatre Company and Hartford Stage might be moved to Broadway in the Fall enabling all those who have missed any one part of the three part, nine play production a chance to catch up, be introduced to or revisit again the epic saga of Horace Robedaux, based on the life history Mr. Foote’s father, his family and relatives starting in the year 1902 and continuing through to 1928.
Because of scheduling conflicts I was unable to see Part I – The Story of a Childhood and Part II – The Story of a Marriage. So, I was a bit fearful that I would have trouble catching up and understanding. Fear not. I really enjoyed Part III – The Story of a Family without any prior knowledge of what preceded it. There are some great program notes to help clarify who is who, with a summary of the plot.
I love the way Horton Foote writes. He gets right into the heart and soul of the many, many characters – quirks and all. The dialogue is so natural that you feel as if you are eavesdropping on friends, feeling all warm and cozy listening to their hurts, their secrets and their squabbles.
They say you should write about what you know. And Mr. Foote did just that. Texas seems to be imbedded in his blood and that is where he takes us. With a cast of twenty two excellent actors to portray his vivid characters. He knows these people inside out and has the great ability to convey that through his writing with compassion and style.
Don’t be put off by its length. If anything, you will want to linger a bit longer with his friends and family. And his many cousins, the focus of Act Two of Part III which is very amusing. Act Three of Part III seems a bit rushed with its necessary editing to get everything in on time. But all in all, the production is a monumental feat of engineering. All the elements fit together like a perfectly cut jig saw puzzle – the design elements: sets and costumes and lighting and sound all help director Michael Wilson create an extremely satisfying and cohesive production.
Bill Heck is ideal as Horace, looking like he came straight out of an Arrow Shirt advertisement of the period. He gives a controlled and passionate performance. His wife Elizabeth (Maggie Lacey) complements him fully. It’s a lovely marriage of characters and actors. In such an exciting ensemble it’s not fair to single anyone out as they are all equally excellent – but Lucas Caleb Rooney, Stephen Plunkett, Bryce Pinkham and Justin Fuller have put an indelible stamp on their characters. And then there is Hallie Foote, daughter of Horton Foote who after his death this past March has helped to carry the torch of his legacy forward with this slice of life sampler of early twentieth century life in Texas. She is a delight to watch.
Near the end, we are told not to be sure about anything in this world. But there is one thing that you can be sure of. You can be sure to be entertained and greatly moved by the writing of Mr. Horton Foote.
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