Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Night I Spent on Henley Street

Posted by Bruce Miller
I have good news and good news.

1 - The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, the inaugural production of the new Henley Street Theatre, is well worth seeing, and …

2 - Good seats are still available for every performance between now and the show’s closing on October 13.

If you haven’t purchased two full-price tickets for Thoreau yet, why not do so right now? You can find Henley Street online at

Henley Street Theatre needs the support of everyone in Richmond’s theatre community if they are to succeed. From the quality of the acting and directing now on display in the intimate theatre at Pine Camp, Henley Street deserves to succeed. Alex Previtera and company are working their hardest to earn your support.

If you care about growth in Richmond’s professional theatre scene, now is the moment to invest 2 ½ hours of your time and $40—the price of two full-price tickets. Talk is cheap; professional theatre isn’t. Let’s all put our money where our mouths are. You’ll see an interesting show, and make a sound investment in Richmond theatre’s future.

Tonight at Thoreau I saw at least ten fine performances from Richmond actors whom I’ve never seen or heard from before. I all too frequently delude myself into thinking that I know all the good actors in town. Tonight's visit to Walden Pond, pictured to the right and above, was proof positive that such delusion is spun from pure air.

Alan Criswell as Ralph Waldo Emerson (pictured to the right) knocked my socks off. Laurie Follmer was completely believable and persuasive as Emerson’s wife, Lydian. Rebekah Spence made a fine, grounded Mrs. Thoreau (Henry’s mother). Patrick Bromley demonstrated real charm and great acting chops as older brother John.

Julia Rigby, David Bromley, Kern Dowdy and Dean Knight all established well-rounded characters and made the most of their scenes. Stan Baranowski, Kaye Weinstein Gary, Josh Lushch and David Settle equipped themselves well in smaller roles.

Max Follmer has to be the most delightful second grader you’ll see on stage this year. My good friend Frank Creasy, the one actor with whom I have significant experience, prompted an evening’s worth of laughs and tears. What a sweet and genuine stage presence.

Michael Sater as Thoreau himself was terrific, honestly embodying Thoreau’s energy, idealism, prickliness and humanity in every second of a large, large role.

I’d be proud and lucky to work with these actors in the future, and I hope to see them at Barksdale and Theatre IV auditions throughout the coming months.

Thoreau, Emerson and their contemporaries are fascinating and intriguing company. I’ve seen this script produced twice before, at the University of Richmond and TheatreVirginia. Of the three productions, this was my favorite—principally because of the compelling chemistry between Thoreau and the Emersons.

Would the show be better with bigger production budgets? Of course. But those budgets don’t exist yet, and Alex Previtera and his designers make the most of their modest resources.

I don’t write reviews, I cheerlead and offer encouragement regarding shows I enjoy. I enjoyed The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, and I encourage you to go see it. Thanks.

--Bruce Miller


Frank Creasy said...

Bruce, on behalf of the "Thoreau" company I'd like to thank you and Phil for your support and these most gracious comments, which I know are written in all sincerity.

Though the Times Dispatch review was favorable of "Thoreau", the most important critics - paying audience members - have been very enthusiastic about our first three performances. Their comments to me and to our cast and production crew have been glowing, and truly humbling for us.

I certainly hope that this production will prompt a re-examination of Thoreau's writings, which are more timely now than ever, especially his points about simplifying life. Thoreau couldn't have foreseen our modern technology or how it would become so pervasive in our lives, but his message about "less is more" - and about seeking the true worth in a person's soul, rather than in their pocketbook or position in the community - are absolutely timeless.

Thanks again Bruce, and I look forward to late October when I personally can enjoy the simple joy of seeing productions again at Willow Lawn and Hanover Tavern to visit MY good friends, yourself included.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Miller,
We appreciated very much the thoughtful gift of flowers on opening night, and thank you again for the generous and encouraging commentary.
- Henley St. cast & crew

Anonymous said...

Patrick Bromley was also in this past summer's TEMPEST at the Shakespeare Festival with Frank. (Just in terms of actors Bruce might not know). He was hilarious.