THE SWAN SONG

THE CAST
Miles JarvisTimothy Olson
Olivia HebdonCandace Souleles
Lolinda HebdonIrene Billingsley
Rhamat SinghJim Payton
Aletha DruKaren Leigh
Emma ThorpeVivian Harrington
Gary KragerRussell Orr




ACTion! - May 1994

REVIEW: PowPAC's Swan Song

Review by Karen Young and Steve 0.

This was a difficult review to write because Swan Song wasn't the strongest show PowPAC has put on. It's a lot more fun to review shows that absolutely blow you away. Samuel French states that Swan Song is 'a study in terror; a thriller" and to "expect a lot of audience screaming.' The PowPAC version was neither terrifying or thrilling; it just seemed that extra spark was missing.

A quick note about the program: if you say the characters are listed in order of appearance, please list them that way. It was difficult to sort out the characters until we heard their names mentioned as they did not come on as listed in the program. Otherwise the program was well- thought out.

Sound desinger Lou Alliano provided us with pleasant pre-show music, and then as curtain time drew close the volume was raised on appropriate "horror-story" type music, and you felt you were in one of those movie theaters that had shown the movie 'Earthquake" with the special sound setup that made the seats rumble. It was eerie and let the audience know that they were about to see something that was a bit off kilter - that things may not be as they seem. Later in the show, Mr. Alliano provided us with more thrills as his first thunder clap literally raised us out of our seats.

Jim Millard was credited with both the lighting design and special effects, which were well done. However, the cyclorama should have become darker with the onset of the night. The shaking chandelier worked well, but at the end of the first Act, a thunder boom, a shot of lighting and then the dimly lit chandelier swinging in almost total darkness would have added some suspense (these things always work better in the dark, not so well on a well-lit stage). Jim Millard and Lou Alliano ran lights and sound and all cues seemed to be on time and levels set right.

The curtain opened on a living room set (designed by Diana Smith and nicely dressed by C'Dale Gross). There were double doors leading out to a veranda and the indication of stairs leading to second floor bedrooms. The set was functional and fitting, but the fireplace could have used a better bulb and the cyclorama would have been better had it been one flat and not three visibly hingepinned together. A chandelier (which figured prominently later in the play) hung from the ceiling. It would have been better aesthetic-wise centered over the table rather than off-center as it was.

The story begins with the family and friends of the recently deceased Hebdons arriving home from their funeral. All characters were appropriately dressed in funeral attire at the beginning. The costuming was stock community theatre with Mr. Olson's suit in Act I much too tight when buttoned, although it looked nice open. Also, it would have been more appropriate to have Rhamat Singh in more "Indian mystic" style clothing, as the script made reference to his clothing being different. 'The women didn't really look the part of a well-to-do family.

Timothy Olson as Ms. Hebdon's fiance, seemed to be trying very hard at doing his role. Lines appeared to be there; but he was working so hard that subtleties of his character never came through. Changes in vocal pitch, more variety in line delivery and SLOWING DOWN could have added nuances that would have kept us guessing about his true character. But Mr. Olson's vocal range and responsiveness have improved a lot over previous performances.

Candace Souleles as Olivia Hebdon played her trance-like scenes very well As with Mr. Olson, lines were there and cues on time, but again, Ms. Souleles needed to SLOW DOWN.

There were a couple of solid supporting performances. Vivian Harrington as the maid acted as though the role were written for her. Good job. Also impressive was Irene Billingsley as the whatever-alcohol-is-available guzzling Aunt. She acted as though she were really talking rather than saying lines. Very funny and very good. Brava!

Russell Orr played the family attorney. While he looked good for the part, he tended to be vocally monotonal and one got the feeling he wasn't the close family friend he was supposed to be. There just wasn't much emphasis on the important words within speeches, and as with most of the cast, he needed to SLOW DOWN. Mr. Orr's attempts at characterization with facial expressions and movement were good, but he needs to relax and savor his lines.

Karen Leigh played the faithful friend very faithfully. She was a little tentative at first, but got stronger as the play went on. She always seemed to respond and appear to be involved in the action onstage. Very credible.

Jim Payton (cast as Alec Hebdon in disguise as Rhamat Singh), though a perfect gentleman offstage, can be a forrnidable presence onstage. You don't notice it so much when he's playing a 'normal" role, but as Rhamat Singh he was able to bring his full height and build to bear in the character. He was sometimes successful and sometimes not in conveying the mysticism of his character. Perhaps a little stiffer posture and deeper voice with an attempt at an accent, as well as the aforementioned costume change, would have helped. But when you find out that he is Alec Hebdon pretending to be Singh, all is forgiven.

Director Annette Huffman cast well. Ages and types were all accurately depicted. The blocking seemed stifled from the onset, which was appropriate for the initial post-funeral scene, but as the play progressed, too often actors stood or sat in the same place for long periods of time. The set was a bit crowded with the table having to be in the center as it was, and that may have figured in the limited blocking scheme. Characterizations could have been developed a bit more, and line delivery worked on. But who is really to blame there - the director or the actors?

The PowPAC reservations, ticketing and hospitality were pleasant as usual.

For years PowPAC has staged some extremely good theatre (especially when you realize it is one of the smallest of local community theatres) with marginal support and little publicity. This particular show lacked continuity of theme, and although it was a fair play for average community theatre goers, PowPAC has done better and will do better in the future. The script might be a bit dated for this show to be any more than a good show for whoever did it.