Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Reviews Are In for ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE Part 3: The Story of a Family

The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage opened at Signature Theatre on January 26, 2010, and the critics loved it just as much as they did the first two installments!

Life, Death and Family in Foote’s Texas

“Nobody in Harrison, Tex., needs to ask for whom the bell tolls. Not, at least, in 1918, the year that gives the title to the opening work in the reverberant final installment of Horton Foote’s “Orphans’ Home Cycle” at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street.

Again and again, the iron tongue clangs from the church steeple, and people in town realize that the flu has taken another victim, most likely someone they’re acquainted with. Odds are they’ll know the name of the deceased — and the time and place of death — before the tolling stops.

The three short dramas that make up “The Story of a Family,” which opened on Tuesday night, are both the starkest and most sentimental of this lovingly painted life-and-times portrait, directed by Michael Wilson in a co-production of the Hartford Stage and the Signature Theater Company.

More than its predecessors, “Family” brings home the sense of how tenuous existence was in western America in the early 20th century, and how desperate it could become. Small wonder that people clung to the notions of their extended families as if they were the very tree of life.

One of the pleasures of repertory is watching how actors become different characters. Here, under Mr. Wilson’s gliding direction, this is usually achieved with a simple, restrained grace, acknowledging that the canvas matters more than the figures within it.”

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Foote’s Fine ‘Family’ Goes the Whole Nine Yards
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NEW YORK POST

With a total running time now up to nine hours, Horton Foote’s "The Orphans' Home Cycle" finally draws to an end with the opening of its third and last three-act installment, "The Story of a Family." It's been a long, steady ride since the first one opened in November, and reaching the destination brings a fulfilling sense of completion.

Foote doesn't neatly tie up loose ends, but it doesn't matter because what he does do is provide an ending that feels as natural and satisfying as a river reaching the sea.

The playwright gave himself a big challenge by making Horace a "good man" -- the kind of stoic, reliable citizen you don't necessarily associate with pulse-quickening drama. But "The Orphans' Home Cycle" is unrelenting in its own gentle way, and we easily become hooked to its succession of seemingly mundane events, quarrels and small pleasures.

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‘Orphans’ Home Cycle’ offers pleasures worth the wait
Joe Dziemianowicz, DAILY NEWS

Superior acting, direction and design work — hallmarks of the first two segments of "The Orphans' Home Cycle" — are front and center in this final installment.

The show is filled with riches. To his credit, Foote, who died last March, doesn't tie things up with a pretty bow — rather with something more uncertain. The line that lingers near the end is a simple one: "A family is a remarkable thing, isn't it?"

It is. So is this theatrical event."

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‘The Orphans’ Home Cycle’ reaches a satisfying end

The story of Horace Robedaux comes to an emotionally and theatrically satisfying conclusion in Part 3 of "The Orphans' Home Cycle," Horton Foote's monumental, nine-hour saga of one man's journey to adulthood.

After already having spent six hours with the man, Horace has, by this third collection of one acts, become an old friend. He anchors Foote's intricately woven tapestry of life in fictional Harrison, Texas, during the first three decades of the 20th century.

Part 3, which opened Tuesday at off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company, is called "The Story of a Family," and is directed — like Parts 1 and 2 — by Michael Wilson with stunning clarity. Its themes are pretty much summed up by one of the characters in the evening's second act: "A family is a remarkable thing, isn't it? You belong. And then you don't. It passes you by, unless you start a family of your own."

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‘The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Part 3 – The Story of a Family’

A cloud of sadness looms over The Story of a Family, the third and final installment in The Orphans' Home Cycle — and it's palpable even before the play's funereal beginning. It signals that Horton Foote's sublime trilogy is coming to a close; these are

After nine hours of The Orphans' Home Cycle, it seems ungrateful to want more: There are, after all, nine plays and three productions on display at Off Broadway's Signature Theatre; director Michael Wilson and his 22-member cast have done remarkable work, imbuing Foote's epic piece with a delicate intimacy.

Grade: A.

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‘The Orphans’ Home Cycle: Part 3’
Horace Robedaux’s journey ends

Five Stars! (out of five)

Before his death last year, Horton Foote finished condensing nine full-length, sequential dramas (written in the ’70s) into the nine-hour epic that we now know as the Orphans’ Home Cycle. But as the plays were boiled down to their essences, a rich and strange mutation occurred: Time became radically shortened. Events that should take about an hour of real stage time (a trip into town, a funeral, getting sick from influenza) now unfold in five or ten minutes, which ramps up drama and forces you to suspend disbelief.

So fine-tuned is the ensemble’s acting, and so precise is Michael Wilson’s direction, this temporal strangeness only heightens the complex pleasures of Foote’s melancholy masterpiece.

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‘The Orphans’ Home Cycle: Part 3 – The Story of a Marriage’
Erik Haagensen, BACKSTAGE

"Don't be too sure. Don't be too sure about anything, Big Horace. Not anything in this world." Horton Foote's extraordinary nine-play saga, "The Orphans' Home Cycle," ends with this plainspoken warning from one brother-in-law to another as a family sits down to dinner. Simple, perhaps even obvious words, and yet in Foote's hands they are quietly shattering, taking on mythic dimension. Now that the end of the cycle has been reached, I'm happy to say that what I hoped for after seeing Part One is true: Foote's final gift to the stage is glorious, an essential American masterwork."

Click here to read the full review

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catching Up on Part 2 of The Orphans' Home Cycle

Missed The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage, or want to catch up on what happened before you see Part 3: The Story of a Family? Check out the video montage below, created by our friends (and co-producers) at Hartford Stage or or click here for a text summary.

See you at the theatre!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Text Summary of The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage

Missed The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2: The Story of a Marriage, or want to catch up on what happened before you see Part 3: The Story of a Family? Here's a summary of what happened:

In 1912, Horace is living in Harrison in a boarding house with three other young men who are prone to gambling and drinking. On the night before he leaves for business school in Houston, Horace calls on the widow Claire Ratliff. Throughout the evening, Horace becomes further entangled in the lives of Claire and her young children as she fends off a violent suitor and decides between two marriage proposals. Claire decides to marry Ned, an older traveling salesman whom her children adore, and Horace departs for Houston. In 1916, Horace is courting Elizabeth Vaughn, but Elizabeth’s parents believe Horace to be wild and refuse to allow the relationship. The two elope on Valentine’s Day, 1917.

By Christmas Eve, Horace and Elizabeth are expecting their first child and living in Mrs. Pate’s boarding house. The couple is visited by a motley assortment of friends and neighbors, including the mentally deteriorating George Tyler, an old friend of Horace’s father. The Vaughns, who have not spoken to their daughter since her marriage, end their estrangement by visiting the couple on Christmas Day. With them is their son, Brother Vaughn, whose drinking, gambling, and poor college grades cause the family to worry. Although Mr. Vaughn initially dismisses Horace and Elizabeth’s home as a rented room, he finds himself repeatedly drawn back to it and its “peace and contentment." George Tyler takes his own life, and the Vaughns offer to buy Horace and Elizabeth a house.