Review by Kipp Lee
The Lovely Bones, adapted for stage by Bryont Laverly from the Alice Sebold novel of the same name, is an intensely emotional story of the violent rape and murder of a teenage girl in 1970s Pennsylvania. This, surprisingly, isn't a spoiler. it happens in the first 5 minutes of the play, which then focuses on the aftermath and her family trying to move on. As the subject matter suggests, this play isn't for the faint of heart. The director and the actors manage to bring forth the gravity of the material without compromise. The ever present tension and grief of the characters as they each struggle in their own way to deal with Susie's death makes for a compelling and emotional show.
The cast was extremely strong, all delivering near perfect performances.It's always a gamble having actors do accents in amateur productions and for the most part it worked. Most actors were consistent, if somewhat unpolished in their delivery.
Sarah Maguire's Susie Salmon, guides the play effortlessly, moving around the set fluidly, gliding in and out of the "real world" and her heaven. Maguire is on stage for the entire 2 hour run time of the show and never faltered. Susie is the narrator of our experience with all the petulance and whimsy one would expect of a 14 year old, recently murdered or not.
Sean Taylor delivers the antagonist, Mr Harvey, with haunting realness. Sometimes it felt like his deterioration came too fast, but that could easily be the nature of the time jumps and adapted text, as it happened with other characters too.
Cassady Maddox Booth was a stand out as Abigal Salmon, giving the role the nuance and passion in all the right ways.
Robyn Arthur's set design lays out all the major settings of the play simultaneously, working with levels and shadows. For those familiar with the book or the film, the Salmon house, the cornfield, the den and Mr Harvey's basement are clearly recognisable. The imposing flats at the rear of the stage are painted white with the black silhouettes of dead corn stalks tower over the stage, creating a cage-like illusion, emphasising the themes of being trapped and helpless. The design cleverly mirrors the plot by revealing everything at the start and having the other characters discover it over the course of the play.
The Lovely Bones is an incredibly rich and interesting story and this production tells it to an incredibly high standard. This is a must see and a triumph for the cast and crew, working through the difficult and uncertain time of Lockdown 2.0. The Lovely Bones runs at the New Theatre until December 18.
Photo Credit: Bob Seary