For what reasons do we, as individuals, find the incentive to keep going? Even when we are peering over the edge of the proverbial cliff we invest ourselves in something that requires our care and attention, or at least something we need to know. The Quarry by Greg and Randal Pierce (author and composer respectively) follows Jean, an asocial Vermonter, in her life after her husband’s death as she recounts her decision to kill herself only to hesitate in light of the mysterious events occurring in the marble quarry adjacent to her home: the disappearance of a local teenager, a ring of bones, and the top of a staircase unearthed at the base of the quarry.
From the beginning of the production it is evident that this is Katherine Catmull’s (Jean) production. She narrates/recounts most of the plot with stoic cynicism and dry humor. Catmull carries with her the weary strength found in a Samuel Beckett protagonist, unsure yet undeterred. She successfully carries the tone of the play from its darkly whimsical beginnings through its bleak middle and to its delightfully surreal conclusion, never missing a beat. She is supported by an ensemble consisting of Ken Webster’s small town charm, Jess Hughes’ balance of playfulness and intensity, and Chase Brewer’s character and energy; all three play a motley crew of characters that showcase their wide range of acting talents. Of the entire ensemble Jess Hughes stands out for her fervor (a monologue over the phone with Jean exemplifies this talent perfectly).
Webster once again doubles as actor and director for The Quarry. He continues to demonstrate his understanding of theatrical productions on and offstage through a light touch. No moment feels forced or over-directed, each actor knows where they need to be without drawing attention where it is unwanted. This is no simple task for a play that demands its protagonist to be onstage at all times, even if she is not in the scene, yet Catmull’s presence during said scenes is not distracting. She merely watches on with the weary investment she attaches to her quarry and the events that transpire to change it.
Much like the direction, the design of the show is subtle all-around. Mark Pickell’s set design, depicting the nearly bare interior of Jean’s home with a decent stack of boxed possessions sitting forlornly to the side, is cut down in comparison to the complexity of his previous two Hyde Park Theatre designs, but manages to work the the production’s advantage. Pickell’s set successfully reflects Jean’s state of mind as someone stripped of everything she cares for, other than her precious quarry, and is almost ready to die. Supported by the light touch of Don Day’s lighting design and Cliff Bond’s piano accompaniment (performing music composed by Randal Pierce), the production showcases the quality in design I’ve come to expect from the Hyde Park Theatre.
My one concern with play comes from the surreal elements mostly found near the end which felt tonally dissonant with the rest of the production, but never so much that I was not enjoying myself. Otherwise I enjoyed the 80-minute production greatly. The Quarry is an enjoyable experience that will make you laugh one minute, existentially contemplative the next, and leaves you strangely hopeful in an enigmatic world.
The Quarry continues playing at the Hyde Park Theatre every Thursday, Friday, and Satuday at 8pm until October 24th.
★ ★ ★ ★ ✩