John McCullagh January 29, 2007

I have received the programme for the Newry Drama Festival 2007 which runs for nine nights from Friday 23rd March till Saturday 31st March inclusive. I know that most patrons appreciate a synopsis of the plot of each play before viewing it, in order to be better able to exercise their critical faculties.


So in two chunks (second to follow shortly) here goes!


A new play to the Newry stage is Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean. Robert Altman directed the low-budget film version of the play by Ed Graczyk, which some of you may have seen and which was also directed by Altman on Broadway using the same cast.

The action takes place in the small Texas town of McCarthy in 1975. Inside of a five-and-dime store, a reunion is planned for the members of a local 1950s James Dean fan club.   An odd assortment of women arrive, revealing hidden secrets, the action flashes back, showing the women as young James Dean fans, and then jumps forward to present day to reveal the ravages of time and lost innocence. Among the women returning for the reunion is Mona (Sandy Dennis in the film), a disturbed woman who, in the ’50s, got a job as an extra on the Giant shoot and nine months later gave birth to a son, who she claims is James Dean‘s child.

 

There is Sissy (Cher in the film), a wisecracking waitress – her first ‘serious’ film role, and also Joanne (Karen Black), who holds a shocking secret that is revealed at the reunion.  Besides the three main players, a collection of supporting characters manoeuvre around the periphery. They are Stella Mae (Kathy Bates), the wife of a rich petroleum executive; Edna Louise (Marta Heflin), a shy, withdrawn woman with numerous children; Juanita (Sudie Bond), the manager of the five-and-dime store; and Joe Qualley (Mark Patton), a young man who likes to dress up in women’s clothing.

Misery is a dark, but witty venture into Stephen King territory.  It’s about a popular novelist who crashes his car on a snowy mountain road and is rescued by a nurse who claims she is his number one fan.  As the time goes by, he realizes she has no intention of letting him leave.

The film – which you likely have seen – moves with a brisk, taut pace thanks to director Rob Reiner, who helmed another excellent Stephen King film, Stand By Me.  Tension is kept mostly throughout (there are some predictable moments…but who cares?) and the performances are also a major plus.  James Caan is very easy to empathize with, and he manages to keep his cynical sense of humour.  Richard Farnsworth, as a grizzled sheriff was a nice addition to the film since his character didn’t exist in the book.  He also has a nice sense of humour, and he’s the kind of guy who you want to root for.  But the most amazing performance is from Kathy Bates, who treads a fine line alternating between sweet and lovable to amazingly evil.  She won an Oscar for this movie, and whole-heartedly deserved it. This is one of the few horror films to take an Oscar.

 

By the end, the theatre goer has been through the lead character’s ‘Misery’. We sometimes feel his pain, and it is so much fun to hate this woman……

 

How it will be performed on stage in Newry remains a mystery, but it will be worth attending just to find out!

ALL MY SONS, a stage play by Arthur Miller, one-time husband of Marlyn Munroe, is also featured this year. It frequently features on the school syllabus, so we give more details about it.  It is a complex morality drama and it pays to know the plot before entering the theatre.

The action of the play is set in August 1947, in the mid-west of the U.S.A. The events depicted occur between Sunday morning and a little after two o’clock the following morning.

Joe Keller, the chief character, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family prosperous.  He is now sixty-one.  He has lost one son in the war, and is keen to see his remaining son, Chris, marry.  Chris wishes to marry Ann, the former fianc

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