THE FIFTH OF JULY
by Lanford Wilson
Lakeside Community Theatre
Director – Dale Moon
Assistant Director/Scenic, Light and Sound Design – Rustin Rolen
Stage Manager – Crystal Stroessner
Assistant Stage Manager – Gabby Lundy
Property Design– Dana Naughton
Costume and Hair Design – Reanna Bell
Kenneth Dalley, Jr.: Andrew Derasaugh
John Landis: David J. Wallis
Gwen Landis: Araceli Radillo
Jed Jenkins: Stephen Hyatt
June Talley: Melissa Hatch
Shirley: Maddie Hatch
Sally Friedman: Ellen Bell
Weston Hurley: Chris Wooley
Reviewed Performance: 6/14/2019
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Fifth of July is set in 1977 at The Talley Place, a farm near Lebanon, Missouri. The set was beautifully designed by Rustin Rolen. At first it appeared to be a simple living room, painted to look like the walls were papered. During intermission, however, the true beauty of the set was revealed, with a transformation that I was pleased to witness. My friends who didn’t see it were stunned when they returned after intermission.
The lighting demands on Rolen were basic, and he provided a flawless wash across the stage with no dark spots or shadows. The projections were a bit choppy on the living room walls, but it was easy to understand their message.
Rolen’s sound design was a pleasant enhancement to the evening. Actual sound effects were few, but were just right for the show. The preshow and intermission music helped remind the audience of the political situation of the time. Execution of sound and lights seemed impeccable.
Costume and hair design was a bit more demanding on Reanna Bell, and she did a nice job. The loud jumpsuit, the button down shirts, the bell bottom jeans and the graphic tees all screamed 70’s to me. The guys had long hair (one with a bushy afro), and the girls’ hairdos were simple and effective.
Props designed by Dana Naughton were perfect. They were appropriate for the time period, and functional but not distracting. The only thing missing was a set of basic metal tumblers in various colors.
As Kenneth Talley, Jr., Andrew Derasaugh did an excellent job of displaying the varied emotions of an educated, wounded Vietnam veteran with lingering emotional issues. His awakening toward the end was touching.
Stephen Hyatt brought Jed Jenkins to life wonderfully. His portrayal of Talley’s lover with a passion for horticulture was understated yet complex. On the surface he was easy going, but it was apparent there was more to him than meets the eye.
John Landis, as depicted by David J. Wallis, was a perfect playboy, and it was fitting. He came across as straight laced at first, but his true personality was revealed as the action went on.
Araceli Radillo’s Gwen was fun to watch as she became more complex throughout the play. She was outgoing yet sensitive, and in the end contributed to Talley’s awakening.
Talley’s sister, June, played by Melissa Hatch, was the picture-perfect realist with a history of rebellion. She was a reformed wild child who knew her mothering skills weren’t the best. Toward the end of the show, a surprising twist in her past was revealed.
As Shirley, Maddie Hatch was ideal for her role. Playing 13 going on 23, I never did determine how old the actress actually is. She played the part of the dramatic teen with ease.
Ellen Bell was beautiful as Aunt June, a modern widow in denial. She added some surprising plot twists, and was stubbornly independent and wouldn’t be fussed over.
Weston Hurley, presented by Chris Wooley, was simply a joy to watch. A guitar playing stoner with a love of books, he was mostly oblivious, but provided much needed moments of comic relief. It was apparent he was actually playing his guitar, and it added some pleasant background music. It would have been nice to hear more of it.
The Fifth of July was definitely a touching show. I was drawn into the lives of these normal yet complex people. Although there were humorous moments, it is definitely a drama. Moon’s skill as a director helped him bring the cast together in a wonderful ensemble piece. Many of the cultural references and the authenticity of the costumes might be lost on younger audience members, but remembering the 70’s, I felt it was a blast from the past.
This presentation was well-done, and a thought-provoking drama worthy of an evening in The Colony. I recommend making time to see it.
The Fifth of July runs through June 29 at Lakeside Community Theatre, 6303 Main St, The Colony, TX 75056. For more information, go to https://www.lctthecolony.com/ or call 214-801-4869.