McKinney Repertory Theatre
Ray: Greg Potts
Barbara: Michelle Hirst
Lorraine: Katrina Jones
Delmar: Chris Biggs
Director: David Gutierrez
Producer: Jake Correll
Stage Manager: Jean Roberts
Sound Board: Cher Shinavar
Light Board: Rene Shinavar
Set Construction: Jake Correll, Chris Biggs,
Colin Wells, Greg Potts, Scott Winchester
Reviewed Performance 3/3/2012
Reviewed by Kayla Barrett, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Coming back home is always a comforting feeling. Driving down the streets you used to play on, spending the weekend with Mom and Dad and reminiscing about old times. I was excited to return to my own hometown for the World Premiere of Crossroads. I wanted to see what McKinney has to offer this year. McKinney Repertory Theatre is a non-profit organization that started out as an amateur theatre troupe in 2003 and took its home in the McKinney Performing Arts Center in 2006. MPAC is in the heart of historical McKinney, in the old Collin County Courthouse originally built in 1876. I can only imagine the creative "haunted theatre" stories that are undoubtedly told amongst the casts and crews.
Indeed, the Courtroom Theater is a unique place to experience performing arts. The original wooden seats are still used, but no worries--the theatre provides seat cushions for your comfort. Though the building may be old, theatre in McKinney is fairly new, and MRT is constantly taking strides to gain audiences and involve the community in the arts. The troupe recently launched its first playwriting competition, which brings us to Crossroads.
Crossroads is the winner of MRT's First Annual New Play Competition selected from over 100 entries!
Playwright Michael Moon wrote the piece from the heart basing the characters and events off of his own experiences. The play is set on the porch of an old country store in the mountains of North Carolina. The style could be compared to that of a Beth Henley play. The characters rely on good storytelling to get them along. The plot is not pressing; the whole point is to emphasize the slow-going nature of small-town southern Americans. They sit around sharing stories and enjoying the fresh mountain air. Indeed, the play is a bit of a snoozer, but audiences can take from it a few good laughs and meaningful morals. The length of the play is perfect, not too short nor too long.
The play starts with Ray, played by Greg Potts. Ray is tending to his old country convenience store. The set is well-dressed with tin sign advertisements, an old Coca-Cola ice-chest, wooden rocking chairs and how can we forget the pet stuffed bird? The store is complete with a green tin roof and lattice fence porch, but depending on seating, you may experience a few moments where an actor is speaking from behind a post. Ray is a kind, likable character that the audience falls in love with quickly. He is believable as the country store owner and will take the older audience members back in time with some of his stories. Greg Potts is a natural actor. He delivers his lines with ease and an unsophisticated southern charm.
Ray is excited and helpful when Barbara, a woman from New York needs his help with directions. Barbara is played by Michelle Hirst. Michelle is exaggerated and robotic at the beginning but she settles into her character later in the scene. Ray gives Barbara directions, but her car won't start so she needs Ray's help again. Little does she know that things move slowly in a small town and she must practice patience in waiting for the mechanic. Meanwhile, Ray offers her a drink and tells some hilarious stories about his interesting grandmother beating people up and using phrases like "he was just chompin' on a hotdog".
Barbara reflects on her life as well and we learn that she is also from North Carolina but she wasn't intending on coming back. She is on her way to Atlanta but somehow fate has brought her home. From the beginning, it is evident that Ray is interested in Barbara and that Barbara is a small-town girl trying hard to be something else. There is good chemistry between Barbara and Ray and audience members find themselves pulling for the two to connect. It is at the end of the first Act that we learn that Ray has a secret.
Later we meet Lorraine and Delmar, a local couple who embrace the simple life. Lorraine is played by Katrina Jones, who creates a lovable character with her part. Her voice, comedic expressions and timing make the audience roll with laughter. She and Delmar, played by Chris Biggs, are an unsophisticated country couple. Delmar is the town's kind hearted mechanic, and while he doesn't get much stage time, he still offers a few good laughs. Biggs and Jones' interaction with each other is amusing. At one point Ray tells them to "save it for the trailer". There are many zany one-liners like this that get us laughing. Lorraine and Barbara have a funny scene where they talk about how hot they think Hugh Jackman is. Lorraine describes her relationship with Delmar as being comfortable "like an old blanket when you get cold." Audience members can't help but feel a similar comfort from the play itself. The story winds down and the four characters all take a new
direction in their lives.
It can be hard to carry a play on one setting, four characters and simple plot, but MRT did it well. The characters are charming and natural and the stories they tell are both funny and sentimental. In the end, the audience takes with them their appreciation of the places they call home, the value of patience and the advice from Ray's grandma: "When there are dark moments in life, you gotta be quiet and listen to the light."
McKinney Repertory Theatre
McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 North Tennessee Street
McKinney, Texas 75069
Performances March 2-3 and March 9-11
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sunday matinee at 2:00pm
General Admission is $16.50
For more information call the box office: 972-544-4630
Or visit www.mckinneyrep.org