by Clare Aukofer, Daily Progress
A House in the Country
Good things come in small packages.
If you doubt that, consider checking out the very intimate Hamner Theater in Nelson County and its current offering, A House in the Country.
The non-profit 49-seat theater is nestled within the Nelson County Community Center, an easy (and beautiful) 40-minute or so drive from Charlottesville. It was created to offer performance space for residents of Nelson, and proves that
the words “small” and “rural” do not necessarily equate to “unprofessional.”
Far from it. This is the best of what community and theater can be.
But, with this show, at least, don’t go looking for light entertainment. An original play by local resident Peter Coy, this is a highly literate, powerful, relentless, unquestioningly dramatic work about cause and effect.
Coy’s script, which has gone through several iterations since it was written in the 1990s, is gripping and intensely human, bringing audiences along with the strength of the rip tide that plays a part in the story. It’s not surprising that it won the Helen Hayes award for outstanding new play after it was first performed in Washington D.C. in 1999.
The play’s power is only amplified in the intimate space of the Hamner. Even—maybe especially—with a minimal set, you can’t help but be drawn into the lives of the four characters you see and the one you don’t.
Though created from the whole cloth of Coy’s imagination, these are intensely real characters, even as four talented actors play them in flashbacks, sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks.
It could be confusing but it is not, a result of the combined talents of Coy, Boomie Pederson as both actor and director, and Susan Burke, Chris Patrick and Bill Williamson as the characters.
As director, Pederson has created a true ensemble cast, even as she’s part of it. The four work together, as necessary to each others performances as cogs are to the same wheel.
This production is proof that even the smallest of community theaters can offer the best of their craft when talented people combine forces.