August 20, 2014 Alley
August 20, 2014, Alley Theatre @ U H
“The Old Friends” by Horton Foote
Reviewed by Austin Green
I am currently paying for a subscription to Ancestry.com after having seen Horton Foote’s “The Old Friends” yesterday evening in order to confirm that we are, indeed related.
Enthusiastically, I made certain that I was first in line to cover the event being as it was my “First Gig”. Leaving myself little
time to adequately grasp what it was I’d be critiquing, I sat forth into the dismal , humid wilderness of Houston’s Rush Hour traffic.
By this point, all I knew was that I’d be headed to The Alley Theatre @ The University of Houston Campus to watch a play but what I experienced
was something far more familiar than I could have dreamed it to be.
I’ve been critiquing film and television since I could sit in the theatre alone. But this was my first time to see a professional production like the Alley Theatre was about to unleash upon my senses. The commute wasn’t bad and we found our way to the theatre with no problems. The 20 minutes leading up to the beginning of the show was typical. Men in suits traipsing the crowded foyer accompanied by their equally dapper dates. There were small clusters of people queued patiently in every corner of the building brandishing cocktails and copies of the playbill that was about to captivate me entirely for the next few hours. They signaled for the audience to make their way towards the theater at 7:30, a mere 4 hrs since I was parked on the couch at home completely oblivious to my impromptu call to duty. Once everyone found their seats and the lights were dimmed, a small introductory speech was given by Gregory Boyd, the Artistic Director for Alley Theatre as well as The Managing Director, Mr. Dean Gladden. I was seated half way up the stairs and dead center of the stage. I was alert. I wasn’t ready.
The play opened up in a bright and jovial fashion. I instantly took notice of their expert use of lighting and set design. The play was being performed on a stage inside of Wortham Theater , but the set was of such a quality that it allowed my mind to forget about the building. After the first two or three scenes, I slowly began to realize that not only was I experiencing a rather large case of deja vu, but I have known every character on stage for the entirety of my life it seemed. The cast possessed an ability to deliver the nuance of Horton’s literary vision in a way that made me feel, in a very big way, related to them. After my familial revelation subsided, the rest of the play started taking real form. The cast never skipped a beat in accelerating the audience through a roller coaster of emotions while peppering in a barren, worn-down sense of humor that was delivered with pin point accuracy. I had no issues whatsoever in following the story and during the more suspenseful moments, I found myself so wrapped up in the action, I forgot I was watching a play altogether.
On the playbill, it is stated that the play contains “adult themes” and this is definitely an important warning to heed especially if you have small children or didn’t grow up in a family like the three depicted in this play! It is a racy performance and beware of the ending, it isn’t the easiest to understand. Although, if you identify with the story even a fraction of the amount that I did, you know that some thing’s will never change.
In closing, the only critical assessments I can draw from the otherwise, stunning performance are as follows:
At points during a few scenes, Ms. Cox blurs her accent and comes across more “eastern” than native Texan. Cotter Smith while incredibly passionate and righteously angry, delivered several of his smaller lines with a fraction of the emotion of the rest of his performance. But don’t let these minor blemishes deter you from experiencing what I believe is one f the more all-encompassing Texas literary representations I’ve ever known.