Review: Even Longer and Farther Away (The New Colony)

| April 30, 2016

Deanna Reed-Foster in Even Longer and Farther Away, The New Colony          
 

          
Even Longer and Farther Away

Written by Chelsea Marcantel 
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru May 15  |  tix: $20-$25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    


    
  

World premiere takes a problematic journey

  

Amanda Raquel Martinez, Patriac Coakley, Joe Lino, Morgan McNaught and Omer Abbas Salem in Even Longer

    
The New Colony presents
    
Even Longer and Farther Away

Review by Lauren Whalen 

The New Colony prides itself on original material: each of their productions is either created by the cast in a collaborative process, or written especially for the company. Even Longer and Farther Away is the latter, a world premiere by Chelsea Marcantel, formerly of Chicago and now based in New York. The New Colony’s mission of presenting only original work is a noble one. In some cases it’s wildly successful: season opener (and now Jeff-nominated) Byhalia, Mississippi will remount later this year. In the case of Even Longer and Farther Away, not so much. Marcantel’s script relies on clichés to tell a story of remorse and redemption along the Appalachian Trail, with characters so whiny and unlikable it’s difficult to stay with them for almost two hours.

Deanna Reed-Foster and Patriac Coakley in Even Longer Farther Away, New ColonyAfter the death of his father, Elliot (Patriac Coakley) sets out to fulfill the man’s dying wish, hiking the trail from Maine to Georgia and scattering ashes along the way. Elliot’s joined by his best friend Roy (Omer Abbas Salem), who’s still dealing with a loss of his own. One snowy night, the hikers stumble upon a tiny town – and run into Elliot’s half-sister Alexis (Amanda Raquel Martinez) and her boyfriend Jack (Joe Lino), who are embarking on the same pilgrimage to honor Alexis and Elliot’s father. Can the two mysterious women who run the lodge (Morgan McNaught and Deanna Reed-Foster) heal the rift between siblings and quell Elliot’s anger at the world?

Complete with traditional Appalachian songs, some bizarre choral dialogue and an older woman telling very symbolic stories, Even Longer and Farther Away is a genuine attempt at a folksy parable. These are hard to do – even The House Theatre stumbled with their season opener, as beautiful as that music was. The problems with Marcantel’s script are many. First, Elliot is neither likable nor interesting: he hasn’t done much with his life other than unsuccessfully apply to writing programs and lash out at his half-sister, who just wants to connect. He’s not even very nice to Roy, who’s basically dropped his entire life for six months to join his friend on a pilgrimage. Also, Elliot hates Alexis’ boyfriend for no apparent reason. After watching this protagonist snap at every other character for even ten minutes, I found it very, very hard to keep caring about his inner struggles and his outer mission. Elliot is clearly a lost soul, but if he really resents his father that much, why is he taking six months to pay tribute to the man? My question was never answered.

Patriac Coakley and Amanda Raquel Martinez in Even Longer Farther AwayPatriac Coakley in Even Longer and Farther Away, New Colony Morgan McNaught and Deanna Reed-Foster in Even Longer and Farther Away

Second, the rest of the characters aren’t much better. Both Alexis and Nayda – the latter is still waiting for a lover who abandoned her long ago – come off as extremely whiny, relying way too much on the very obviously unreliable Elliot. Though Lino does his best, Jack is such an inconsequential character it’s questionable why the playwright put him there at all. And the two most interesting and likable characters, Roy and lodge proprietress Trudy (Reed-Foster), are reduced to archetypes and aren’t fleshed out nearly as much as they could be. (That said, both Salem and Reed-Foster are excellent. Salem provides much-needed comic relief, and Reed-Foster is so charismatic that I wanted her to be the play’s central character. Also, Lino creates some funny moments, no thanks to the script.)

All isn’t completely lost: thanks to a lovely production design, the world of the play is very nicely established. The audience sits among the characters – while this choice makes sight lines a bit problematic, it ultimately works quite well. Ashley Woods’ scenic design, complemented with Becca Jeffords’ lighting, creates a mystical, magical environment that is far more beautiful and compelling than most of the characters who inhabit it. Heath Hays’ sound design further pulls in the audience with a charming and simple sweetness.

I wanted to like Even Longer and Farther Away much more than I actually did. The idea of mourning a lost parent by taking a journey isn’t original, but if done right, it can be both heartbreaking and rewarding. Sadly, this story is neither. If playwright Marcantel had been slightly less cliché with her characters and dialogue, Even Longer and Farther Away would be much stronger.

  
Rating: ★★
  
   

Even Longer and Farther Away continues through May 15th at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $20-$25, and are available online at Tixato.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TheNewColony.org(Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, includes an intermission)

Morgan McNaught and Patriac Coakley in Even Longer and Farther Away, New Colony

Photos by Evan Hanover


  

artists

cast

Patriac Coakley (Elliot), Joe Lino (Jack), Amanda Raquel Martinez (Alexis), Morgan McNaught (Nayda), Deanna Reed-Foster (Trudy), Omer Abbas Salem (Roy)

behind the scenes

Thrisa Hodits (director), Ashley Woods (scenic design), Marisa Allison (costume design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Heath Hays (sound design), Alec Long (properties design), Ian Olsen (technical director), Garth Moritz (production manager), Michele Stine (script supervisor), Ben Kaye (assistant director), Sarah Collonge (stage manager), Evan Hanover (photos)

Deanna Reed-Foster in Even Longer and Farther Away, The New Colony

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Category: 2016 Reviews, Den Theatre, Lauren Emily Whalen, New Colony, New Work, World Premier

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