Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 30, 1974 · Page 82
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June 30, 1974

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 82

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, June 30, 1974
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Page 82
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New 'Hatfield' season full of spirit By Martha Smith It was no ordinary opening night. It wag a happening. Last Saturday as "Hat- fields and McCoys" opened its fifth season at Cliffside Amphitheater in Grandview Park near Beckley, there was a new spirit in the old feud; new life in the legend. There are a number of reasons for the invigorated atmosphere. First and foremost in the success formula is the return of Ewel Cornett, the musical drama's composer. He left his position as director of the Arts and Humanities Council to resume the directorship of "Hatfields," and his action proves you can go home again. And with normal! measure of success, at that. The entire production bears witness to Cornett's masterful hand, and to the spirit of change brought on by extensive rewriting-products of Cornett's pen and that of playwright Billy Edd Wheeler. The play is shorter, crisper, neater. Dramatic scenes still are poignant and chillingly realistic. But there is very little time lag. Useless pap has been deftly ex.cised from the script. Comic timing is superb. The choreography is cleverly integrated into the play's action in a manner designed to enhance the dialogue rather than cause distraction. Nowhere is the poetry of the dance more eloquent than in the burial scene in which the bodies of Ellison Hatfield and the three McCoy boys who murdered him then were executed are laid to rest. Veteran performers provide yet another key to the success of this year's production. John Benjamin is outstanding as Rand'l McCoy, the haunted patriarch of the Kentucky clan. His interpretation of a quiet man who prefers to fight within the law but is driven to seek revenge is strong, commanding and convincing. David Bray also .is outstanding in the dual roles of Tolbert McCoy andGap Hatfield. Bray, director of "Honey in the Rock," epitomizes the polished professional. His stage presence is confident and he provides equal believability to the demanding double roles. Tom Mustard, creator of the role of Johnse Hatfield whose ill-fated love affair with Rose Ann McCoy added fuel to the already smoldering fife, turns in another fine performance. His boyish charms spring eternal. His strong baritone voice and abundant .acting abilities seem to-Increase each year that he brings Johnse to vivid life. · Bright new faces often mean fresh, exciting charac- . ter insights. Such is the case with Gabrielle Jankavs, whpse spirited Rose Ann is a beautiful, beguiling creature. Miss Jankavs has, in addition to poise, charm and a great deal of acting talent, a lovely lyric soprano voice which she uses to its fullest effect in a ballad lamenting the lost love of Johnse Hatfield. Dawn Couch, who plays Nancy McCoy, Johnse's new-found love, gives a spicy, saucy touch to her role. Mimi Carr does an admirable job as the longsuffering Levicy Hatfield, as does Deborah Ashira as Sarah McCoy. Of course, the foremost newcomer to the cast is Garland McKinney in the all-important role of Devil Anse. McKinney has chosen to understate a role which would be easy to overplay. He gives an even, temperate portrayal of the larger-than- life character. His size lends additional credibility to the legendary figure. And, while it seemed opening night that McKinney might be a bit too cool in the role, he quickly warmed to his task. In fact, some of the evening's truly marvelous moments were during the dream sequence in which McKinney and Benjamin sang and danced in carefree camaraderie. Special mention must be , given John Sterling Arnold, last year's Devil Anse, who returns this year in the comic role of Uncle Jim Vance, complete with game leg and an overwhelming urge to shoot anyone who faintly resembles a McCoy. Arnold's timing and ability are far more suitable to the Vance role and he carries it off well. His projection is perfect and is a q u a l i t y many of the less experienced performers well might emulate. · ·· Greg Devereaux, a young actor from Huntingdon, admirably handles three roles. His characterization of the smarmy lawyer Perry Cline is devastatingly funny. He also portrays Phamer McCoy (not quite the buffoon created by past performers) and Troy Hatfield. Other notables are Herb Smith of Charleston as Preacher Anse and Bill Holmes as Joseph Hatfield. These two are indispensable because of their booming bass voices which are the foundation of the singing chorus. Both are veterans of the outdoor dramas. Yet another dynamic voice is that of Charleston native Michael Hayward-Jones who boosts the tenor section as well as tripping the light fantastic fantastically well in a square dance sequence. Without elaborating, 'I'll say I liked Virgil Roberson as Jim McCoy, Beth Wilkinson as Allifair McCoy and Dana Hart as Spirit Hatfield. The three-were capable in their roles. There were, of course, opening night problems. Falling props, misfiring pistols and a rather wobbly pine tree were technical trials. Those are small worries and · generally are unavoidable accidents. . A timing problem, howev- : ALUMA-SASH REPLACEMENT WINDOWS Check these features ·NO MAINTENANCE , OR UPKEEP ·INSTALL IN MINUTES ·TILTS IN FOR EASY CLEANING ·FULLY WSULATED ·WHITE BAKED ENAMEL ALUMINUM ·CUSTOM MADE FREE WE WIL COVER OUTSIDE WHDOW FACMG SILLS WITH PURCHASE OF 10 REPLACEMENT I [WINDOWS " ; WE WILL NOT BE UNDERSOLD BUY NOW SAVE ALUMINUM BUILDING PRODUCTS 2 1 4 1 MacCorkle, St. Albans, W. Va. PH, 727-9363 °»'ORN er. seemed to plague Hart and Duane Tate (Spirit McCoy) when the two were required to speak or sing in unison. They weren't synchronized and it appeared that Tate was having difficulties. Time, experience and perhaps some individual rehearsal should remedy those faults. A f i n a l interjection. There's one scene in "Hat- fields' I've never liked. No matter how capable the actors, it always continues ad infinitum and proves nerve- wracking. That's the mourning scene in which Mary Butcher and Sarah McCoy kneel in the McCoy home, rock to and fro and screech prayers to the Almighty to save their loved ones who are about to be executed by a band of Hatfields. The scene palls quickly, and if it must be retained it surely should be cut in length. Please. Those are very few criticisms of "Hatfields and McCoys." It's a good show. It's a unique theater experience and, even if you've seen it. go again. Like fine wine, this show improves "with age. For tickets, write West Virginia Historical Drama Assn., Box 1205, Beckley, W. Va. 25801 or call 253-8313. SINCE 1952 TELEVISION SERVICE SEWING · 1MOWHIU ·HUI · CAMPHLL'SCK. ·WltCHHI 0MAUMN » DIAMOND · (AND PHONE 925-3174 DOWNSTAIRS JMRlllBT STORE V'i/'T^"* *¥ FUN-SUN SETS FOR CASUAL WEAR Fun-sun sets for cool, casual summer wear. Choose seersucker, denims and cotton cords 'n checks in sleeveless pant suits, sassy sets and shifts. All are easy care and stay-crisp fabrics. A selected group in time for the holiday! Assorted sizes 10-18, and 14 Vz -22 '/2: Come early for best selection! pursuits SHfTS'n SUSSES 19 '99 WiCGflSH

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