Friday, March 13, 2009


Foxfire, now in its final weekend at Boise Little Theater, is a stunningly beautiful show. From the moment the curtain opens, the audience is in for a visual treat. The opening moment of the show is as carefully and artistically put together as a movie with a top-notch cinematographer: John Myers stands silhouetted in center stage, lit from behind with a deep blue light, his head bent over a guitar as he strums and softly sings a country tune. Behind him lies an old wagon wheel in a pile of rubble; to either side are an old wooden shed and the weathered beams of a front porch; and behind it all is Fred Choate's gorgeous mural of the Appalachian hillside, barns and an orchard.

The set isn't the only beautiful thing about this finely acted and directed show. The characters are well-written and well-rounded. Sue Galligan was very believable as Annie Nations, a widow who relives some of the most joyous and painful memories of her life as she faces the difficult decision of whether to leave her longtime home. Galligan delivers a nuanced performance that leaves the audience guessing as to whether she is in full possession of her mental faculties.

Jerry Snodgrass plays Hector Nations, Annie's cantankerous and curmudgeonly husband. His role, too, shows a fair amount of nuance, and it's delightful to see Snodgrass, who frequently plays grumpy old men, have a few moments of eager, bumbling, nervous flirtation in a flashback with Annie.

As Annie's son Dillard Nations, John Myers does a good job of wrestling with contradictory forces. He wants Annie to move away from her remote home to Florida with him so he doesn't have to worry about her being caught in the cellar when the door sticks, especially now that all of her neighbors have moved away. But he doesn't want her to move if it means selling the place to a developer he sees as shady, and he doesn't want her to have to get involved in his troubles at home.

Helene Myers is charming as Holly Burrell, a young schoolteacher who grew up with Dillard and is both in awe of him and a little disappointed in him. Larry Chase has some lively and entertaining exchanges with Hector. Patrick Young plays a developer who might not have the best interests of the land and the town at heart; he could have projected a little more.

Overall the show paints a beautiful portrait of life in a land that time passed by and that is about to disappear under the bulldozers of progress.


  • March 13-14: Stage Coach Theatre presents Brooklyn Boy, a witty drama about a writer whose novel has just hit the best-seller list while his wife is leaving and his father is in the hospital. The show runs at 8:15 at the theater in the Hillcrest Shopping Center at Orchard and Overland in Boise.
  • March 13-14: Boise Little Theater presents Foxfire, a musical about an Appalachian widow deciding whether to sell the farm and home she shared with her husband to a real-estate developer and live with her son in Florida. The show runs at 8:00 at the theater on Fort Street.
  • March 14: Boise Art Museum opens Higher Ground, a juried art exhibit of works by Boise and Meridian high school students, and Bloated Floaters, Snouted Sappers and the Defense of Empire, a series of drawings of bloated, blimp-like figures by Idaho artist Garth Claassen.
  • March 16: Joan Didion, author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The Year of Magical Thinking, and the scripts for A Star is Born and Up Close and Personal, reads her work at 7:30 at the Egyptian Theatre at Capitol and Main.
  • March 16: Boise Contemporary Theater presents a reading of Beautiful American Soldier, a story about two sisters lost in war-torn Iraq who find a man peddling junk, and an Iraq war veteran who discovers how much he has in common with a homeless man. The reading is at 7:00 at the Fulton Street Theater on Fulton between 8th and 9th Streets.
  • March 20: Alley Repertory Theater and East Indian Follies present Love Person, an exploration of the role of language and love in various cultures, couples and communities, using English, Sanskrit and American Sign Language. The show runs through March 20-22 and 25-28 at 8:00 at the Visual Arts Collective behind the Woman of Steel Gallery on Chinden in Garden City.
  • Now through March 20: Immigrant Shadows: Tracing The Herders' Legacy, an art installation by artists Amy Nack and Earle Swope recreating a grove of aspen trees from paper, is at Rosenthal Gallery at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.
  • March 20: Knock 'Em Dead Dinner Theatre opens Once on This Island, a musical featuring calypso music about a young peasant girl who is sent on a journey by the gods to test the strength of her love even in the face of death. The show runs March 20-21, 26-28, and April 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18 at 7:00 Thursdays and 8:00 Fridays and Saturdays, with dinner served at 7:00 Fridays and Saturdays. The theater is located on 9th Street between Myrtle and Front.
  • Now through March 21: The Illustrious Onion Skin Players present the melodrama Ruckus at Cowboy U, or Who's Hugh. The show runs March 13-15, 17, and 20-21 at 7:30 at the Star Theater on State Street in Weiser.
  • Now through March 28: Harley's Angels, a spoof about the Angels and their attempts to prevent a sinister plot by the French to take over the world, opens at Prairie Dog Productions. The show runs March 13-15, 20-22 and 27-28 at 7:15 Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 Sundays at the playhouse at 3820 Cassia in Boise.
  • March 28 and 30: Starlight Mountain Theatre presents Alice in Wonderland, performed by students in grade school through high school, at 7:30 at Capital High School in Boise.
  • Now through April 18: Starlight Mountain Theatre opens the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. The show runs March 13-14, 20-21 and April 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 at 7:30 at the Star theater at 1851 Century Way in Boise.
  • Now through May 24: The Boise Art Museum offers an exhibit of early works by photographer Ansel Adams.
  • Now through May 2009: The Boise Art Museum hosts a site-specific architectural structure called After, by Lead Pencil Studio architects and artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Brooklyn Boy

Brooklyn Boy, now playing at Stage Coach Theater, is a wryly funny, though-provoking, well-acted play that's well worth seeing.

Ian Taylor plays Eric Weiss, an author of a new bestseller whose life isn't going as well as his newfound fame and success would make you think. His father Manny (director Rick Hunt), whose distant relationship with Eric is the inspiration for Eric's book, is dying of cancer. His wife Nina (Carly Latimore), a fellow writer who's jealous of his success, is divorcing him. Movie producer Melanie Fine (Jodi Nelson-Deerfield) wants him to make the screenplay "less Jewish." And a run-in with a childhood friend, Ira Zimmer (Ramiro Ruiz), leaves Eric feeling guilty about leaving his faith, his neighborhood, and his old friends long behind.

The interplay between Taylor and all the other actors in the show is amazing to watch. In his scenes with Hunt, Taylor portrays a son eager for his father's approval, which Hunt withholds in a teasing little dance. When Eric tells his father his book has made #11 on the best seller list, Manny says he didn't think the list went down that far. "I thought it was 10. Good thing they made it longer."

Taylor and Ruiz offer an intriguing exploration of the different paths people can take when they grow up. Why do some people feel the need to leave their hometown, while others feel obligated to stay? What gives one person the ambition to go on to college, while another puts down roots and takes over the family business? The questions are that much more intriguing because Ira idolizes Eric, but Eric's still not comfortable in his own skin and seizes on any nuggets of criticism Ira throws his way.

Watching Latimore and Taylor was like watching a fight where only one person is throwing punches. Eric still wants to get back together with Nina, who's alternatively furious with him and protective of his feelings, but mostly furious and jealous. There's an odd chemistry between the two.

There's an even odder chemistry between Taylor and Genny Ulmen, who plays Alison, a girl Eric meets at a book signing and takes back to his hotel room. With Ulmen and Taylor, it's on-and-off flirtation and shame as their conversation flits from deep to shallow and each characters morals and desires waver.

Nelson-Deerfield is great as the sycophantic, firm and foul-mouthed movie producer who asks Eric to remove some of the most meaningful, personal elements of his book as they prepare it for the big screen. And Ben Ulmen is funny as Tyler Shaw, a young actor who says he always finds his characters through their hair. But even these two somewhat stereotypical characters add powerful meaning to the play when Melanie makes Eric read his father's lines while Tyler pretends to be the protagonist of Eric's book. The scene Taylor and Ben Ulmen play out is wrought with emotion rapidly building up under the surface, just barely held in check, until Eric finally breaks down.

Don't let the fact that it's primarily a drama scare you off. Brooklyn Boy is funny, clever, and overall a well-told tale.