To say that "The Spoon River Project," a theatrical adaptation of Spoon River Anthology, written by Edgar Lee Masters and published in 1915, is a unique experience is an understatement. Director Tom Andolora's use of Greenwood Cemetery as a setting is sheer genius.
As twilight turned to night, under a canopy of night shadows, surrounded by the rustling silhouettes of trees, gravestones, and striking mausoleums, an elegant choreography of "spirits," holding lanterns and almost gliding down the hill, unfolded.
The actors, eleven of them, had the formidable task of portraying forty-five characters, all dead residents of the town of Spoon River. They wore costumes from the period. They were not demeaned by "spooky" makeup. This is not a ghost story in the traditional sense of trying to scare an audience. They performed through the use of song and poetic monologue.
Oddly, though they spoke as individual characters, I perceived them as a collective entity. The poetic monologue, like pieces of a patchwork quilt, brought out the color and texture of the human conditions that affect us all. Some characters--plain-spoken, colloquial, perhaps even naive--contrasted with others--perhaps more worldly, some with words flowered with literary references and nuances, all embroidered together.
It was a collective voice that resonated, a voice that transcended place and time. Afterwards, I couldn't help but wonder about the stories and dreams of our own "town" residents as they rest under the quiet hills of Green-wood Cemetery.
On a less spiritual note, over two hours of sitting on a hard plastic chair can be hard on some individuals, so consider bringing a cushion with you!
-- Review by Bridget Elder