The world premiere of THE CABBAGE PATCH by Canadian playwright Daniel R. Lillford closes out this season of new works at the Depot Theatre. A play that’s a combination of romantic comedy, memory and mystery, it features Arthur, an ex-Canadian Army Captain and his British-born wife, May. Arthur spends his time as an inventor and devoted gardener while keeping company with Roy, the town drunk, who served with him in Korea. In 1970, Arthur’s sister-in-law Jean goes missing, and thereby hangs a tale.
The play is about many things: military bravery versus civilian ambition, fathers and sons, fraternal rivalry and, most of all, memory. As Arthur says, after time “the best of memories become murky.” Perhaps the least important element is what happened to Jean, as THE CABBAGE PATCH is a play about ideas, characters and relationships rather than plot.
The set, designed by Jonathan Wentz, features a cut-away view of Arthur and May’s kitchen, with a narrow strip of porch and steps down to the garden shed and cabbage patch. Before the curtain and during intermission Mo, the Depot’s resident cat, thoroughly investigated the cabbages. A wall calendar provides an unobtrusive aid in following the time shifts between 1970 and 1980.
Isabella Byrd’s lighting is effective, especially in the final scene, as is the sound designed by Beth Glover and Jim Carroll. Stage Manager Liz Reddick calls the tricky sound cues impeccable. The music choices of Miss Glover and the Director are particularly appropriate. Jean Brookman’s costumes are just fine. I especially liked May’s flowered blouse with the fussy neck bow and Arthur’s flowered frock.
In general, the cast is strong, although Kent Burnham is a bit one-dimensional in the under-written role of the policeman Rory. As Wilson, Arthur’s lothario businessman brother, Steven Patterson does an especially nice job in his Act II scene with Arthur.
Beth Glover gives her character many layers in a strong Act I scene and, of course, is effective as a dead body. I giggled when she compared her snoring to “a John Deere in reverse.” As Roy, Arthur’s drunken Irish pal, J.T. Waite does a fine job and delivers one of the play’s most poignant lines when talking about his nightmares of war, “Truth comes in your sleep.”
As the long-suffering and indefatigable committee-woman May, Shami McCormick gives us a wonderfully human, three-dimensional character. Her subtle comedic ability is just terrific, as is David Murray Jaffe’s as Arthur. Mr. Jaffe makes Arthur totally human as well. His and Miss McCormick’s chemistry together is very good and I developed great affection for this couple.
Director John Christopher Jones has done a fine job of staging and directing the piece. He and his expert cast make the various time shifts and scene sequences easy to follow and we never lose interest in these characters. He’s staged a wonderful final picture.
This is an interesting and enjoyable new play. Since there are only a few performances left, take the opportunity to see what’s in THE CABBAGE PATCH – besides the cat.
On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of THE CABBAGE PATCH gets four and one-fourth boxcars.