There's a theater revival going on in Yellow Springs. You might not have noticed, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore. Producer Kay Reimers, a hand full of directors and a rich repertory of locals have revived the old Center Stage moniker and are more than doing it justice. In recent times they have given us Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard," Wilder's "Our Town," and, over the last two weekends, Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." Pathos may seem like the current that flows through these productions, but then there were two seasons of the Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival, that provided enough raucous humor to balance the rest.
Another common thread to the more dramatic of their offerings has been the creative stagings that have made audiences all but forget the shortcomings of Westminster Hall at the First Presbyterian Church, where Center Stage has seemed to put down its roots. "The Cherry Orchard," directed by Marcia Nowik, made use of every inch of space in the hall, transforming it with an other-worldliness. "Our Town," directed by Lorrie Sparrow, was plunked down in the middle of the space and performed in the round. In what was perhaps the most imaginative use of the space yet, "The Crucible," also directed by Sparrow, was set on a runway that ran from the southeast corner of the hall to the northwest. Local theater veteran, Walter Rhodes, termed it "theater in the diagonal."
But, of course, there has been more than just staging to recommend these productions - every one of them was marked by creative direction and talented thespians. Sometimes, watching my friends and neighbors pour their hearts into their roles, I found it hard to believe I was viewing a so-called amateur production. Perhaps, that's because the directors and some of the actors actually have professional backgrounds.
Last Friday, I was lucky enough to get a seat for "The Crucible." Having thoroughly enjoyed all the previous Center Stage productions, I was pretty sure I would not be disappointed in this one. However, I was not quite prepared for the emotion that poured forth from the stage. There was none of the tenuousness that one might expect from a community theater cast. To borrow a metaphor from the current sports season, they played with the confidence of a Harvard against New Mexico - not that I consider them to be underdogs in any way. From Kayla Graham, who played the treacherous Abigail Williams, to Aaron Saari, the vituperative Reverend Danforth, they all let it all hang out, as ultimately defined by the final scene where John Proctor, played by Brendan Sheehan, tries in vain to rescue his good name. I can't imagine theater on any level getting much better than this.
In the spirit of complete disclosure: The author of this review, along with Kay Reimers, has been the producer of the Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival, which will have its third rendition on October 25 & 26, 2013. Proceeds from the festival go to support Center Stage productions.