Friday, December 18, 2009

The reviews are in for ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE: Part 2: The Story of a Marriage!

The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage opened at Signature Theatre on December 17, 2009, and the critics received it just as rapturously as they did Part 1!

An Insignificant Riddle and the Other Women in an Orphan’s Life

“Roberta!” the drunken man calls out in his sleep, his voice as lonely as a train whistle on a prairie. A little boy who overhears him thinks it sounds as if somebody were being murdered. But the man’s roommates in a small-town boarding house in Harrison, Tex., are more perplexed than alarmed. “Who’s Roberta?” they ask one another.

The answer (to be revealed at the end of this review) is inconsequential to the central story of the exquisite “Widow Claire,” the first of three short plays in the second part of Horton Foote’s ever more engrossing “Orphans’ Home Cycle” at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street. The restless dreamer is a minor character, and I suppose you could say that his nightmare — if that’s what it is — is an exceedingly minor event in the so-far splendid production of nine interconnected dramas by Foote, from the Signature Theater Company and Hartford Stage. (The third installment of three plays opens next month, and will continue in repertory with the other two.)

But minor events set off major ripples in the minds of those watching “The Orphans’ Home” plays, which follow the deracinated life of Horace Robedaux, a character based on Foote’s father. Seemingly unimportant moments acquire talismanic significance when you look back, the way small details from your own past loom large and revealingly in memory.

“Roberta,” that repeated cry in the night out of nowhere, comes to feel like a theme song for “The Story of a Marriage,” the collective title for this trilogy about the mystery, salvation and randomness of love, which opened on Thursday night. (Besides “The Widow Claire,” the others are “Courtship” and “Valentine’s Day.”)

Horace, who was introduced as a boy in “The Story of a Childhood,” the cycle’s first chapter, is now a man (affectingly played by Bill Heck), possessed of a hungry ambition and an undermining passivity in equal measures. He is looking to recreate the home he lost — if he ever had it — when he was 12, the year his father died, and his mother moved out of Harrison with Horace’s sister, leaving the boy behind. Finding a home means finding a mate, a pursuit that gives shape to the “Marriage” plays, which cover five years of Horace’s life in Harrison, from 1912 to 1917.

Though these works present what is, on some levels, a conventional love story with a happy ending — inspired by the elopement of Foote’s parents — they never shake off the haunted chill that runs through all his work. For the characters created by Foote, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Young Man From Atlanta,” permanence in relationships is a pipe dream. And the folks, young and old, who inhabit the “Marriage” trilogy are forever asking, “What if,” in a fretful litany:

What if the person you love dies tomorrow? What if love fades or turns sour? What if you were never really in love at all?

Directed by Michael Wilson with assured understatement, and acted by a consistently convincing and versatile repertory cast, these plays flow with a sense of everyday life accelerated, moving by us in a blur of dramatic happenings lodged in the fine grit of the ordinary. The stories swapped here include tales of madness, alcoholism, suicide and deaths in childbirth.

Click here to read the entire review:

The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage


“The second part of "The Orphans' Home Cycle," Horton Foote's family album of plays about a turn-of-the-century Texas family and its struggles with the coming of modernity, has just opened at Signature Theatre Company. It upholds the immeasurably bright promise of the first installment. Not since Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" has so self-evidently significant a large-scale theatrical endeavor come to New York.

Horton Foote died last March, immediately after putting the finishing touches on "The Orphans' Home Cycle." Could it be that he brought his long and illustrious career to a triumphant close by giving us the Great American Play? Come to Signature Theatre and see for yourself.”

Click here to read the entire review:

Give ‘Home Cycle’ a Spin
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NEW YORK POST

“Horton Foote's "Or phans' Home Cycle" is an oxymoron: an intimate, sprawling piece. It's made up of nine plays spread over 26 years, with a cast of characters hanging from extensive family trees, yet each show feels like the snug snapshot of a particular, small-scale moment.

It's not a fanfare Foote has written for the common man, but a series of chamber pieces.

The cycle is such a vast undertaking that the Signature company is unveiling Michael Wilson's production in successive installments of three plays each. The new one, "The Story of a Marriage," follows last month's "The Story of a Childhood," with "The Story of a Family" due in January.

Rarely has everyday life been so modestly inspiring as it is in Foote's hands. The worst part is that we have to wait another month to see how it all ends.”

Click here to read the entire review:

Horton Foote epic gets exquisite treatment
Joe Dziemianowicz, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

“Five stars (out of five)

Based on size alone, "The Orphans' Home Cycle" would qualify as the year's big theater event.
This final work of Horton Foote, who died in March, is a three-part series whose running time adds up to a whopping nine hours.

But those are just numbers.

The real reason Foote's drama is so big and important is because it's so exquisitely realized — the writing, acting, direction and design.

So far, it's a home run for its presenters, the Signature Theatre Company and Hartford Stage.”

Click here to read the entire review:

Horace Robedaux journeys into adulthood, marriage

“Horace Robedaux continues his journey into adulthood in Part 2 of "The Orphans' Home Cycle," Horton Foote's masterful examination of one man's life in small-town Texas in the first decades of the 20th century.

For those who are jumping in midstream, Horace has grown up. An unsettling childhood and the beginnings of maturity were the centerpiece of the cycle's opening trio of plays. Now, in the middle section of Foote's mammoth nine-play marathon, the man, portrayed with a touch of melancholy by Bill Heck, is searching for stability — and a wife.

Part 2, which the Signature Theatre Company opened Thursday at its Peter Norton Space, celebrates that quest, first with "The Widow Claire," the title of the evening's touching curtain-raiser. Heck projects a mournful rootlessness even as Horace courts this lonely young woman (Virginia Kull) who is faced with raising two children alone in rural Harrison, Texas.

Part 3, in which Horace moves into the role of family patriarch, opens Jan. 26. We can't wait.”

Click here to read the entire review:

The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Part 2: The saga continues

“Five stars (out of five).

In accordance with the Law of Trilogies (which I last invoked for The Coast of Utopia), the second part of Horton Foote’s immensely satisfying Orphans’ Home Cycle is fraught and full of darkness.

Director Michael Wilson works wonders with an adept 22-person ensemble. His actors achieve a fascinating blend of wistfulness and stoicism: Even the craziest and most inebriated characters in Harrison, Texas (the primary setting), avoid hammy excess in favor of poignant restraint and clarity. And while most of the tales’ ugliness and violence occurs offstage, there’s a palpable tension on the Signature’s intimate stage, as Horace and the others engage in a pitched moral battle between kindness and cruelty. We have to wait until the final chapter, in late January, to see who wins.”

Click here to read the entire review:

The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage
Robert Feldberg, BERGEN RECORD

“The plays are superbly acted by a large cast, and have been directed by Michael Wilson with uncommon sensitivity.

The last part of the trilogy, "The Story of a Family," will pick up Horace's and Elizabeth's lives a year later, in 1918. It's something to be eagerly anticipated.”

Click here to read the entire review:

The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage
Erik Haagensen, BACKSTAGE

“As with Part One, three hours fly by as this utterly engaging and deeply compelling work unfolds. At the center is Bill Heck's superb Horace. Graceful, handsome, impeccably mannered—it's clear why the ladies take to him. But Heck never forgets Horace's inner core of self-doubt, fueled in part by the pain of his mother's neglect. Darkness is always simmering under the surface. Bring on Part Three."

Click here to read the entire review:

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