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Theater Review: Excellent Cast And Crew Create Bewitching Sherman Production



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SHERMAN - The Sherman Playhouse has been transformed into a witch's lair, high up in the Smoky Mountains. Haunting and eerie, the set for this fall production of Howard Richardson and William Berney's Dark of the Moon captivates even before the play begins. The performance does it justice. Directed by Robin Frome, this production - which continues weekends through October 15 - is awesome.

Witchboy John (played by John Squires) has fallen in love with Barbara Allen (Kate Morris), a girl from the village below. Spell caster Conjure Man (John Fabiani) warns John to not pursue his dream of becoming human so he can spend eternity with his beloved Barbara, but Conjure Woman (Katherine Almquist) is less cautious yet more conniving. John's wish is granted with many strings attached.

Barbara Allens's parents (Meg Jones and Rufus de Rham) are eager to marry her off. At the age of 19, their daughter is at risk of becoming an old maid. A lack of demographics aside, John fits the bill.

Despite the concern of town folk as well as a fire and brimstone, holier than none preacher played by Michael Wright, the marriage is made.

John is different, suspicion arises and despite Barbara's love for him, there is trouble for the young couple.

The cast is large, and to a one, excellent. As the story unfolds and the action is in play, every single face reflects full engagement, and each performance is thorough.

From the opening, two playful and taunting young witches (Phair Elizabeth Haldin and Jessica Gleason), with eerie and ethereal voices, are literally bewitching.

Playing Barbara Allen's mother, Meg Jones is perfection. Droll and earnest, her performance is full of humor.

Ms Allen's spurned suitor, Marvin Hudgeons is well played with swagger by Patrick Kelly. He is smooth and menacing.

Michael Shaner is charming and naive as the young Hank Grudger.

Preacher Haggler is cunning and controlling, the town folk are putty in his hands. Michael Wright handles this part with verve. He creates a terrific character and brings a huge energy to this fun role.

Ms Morris is angelic in the role of Barbara Allen. She portrays a young woman in love convincingly, her emotions running close to the surface. Her presence on stage is beguiling.

In the lead role, John Squires is nothing short of incredible. His sheer command of the role is complete. His physical capacity, in a performance which requires agility and strength, is superb, but it is his total transformation and commitment to his character that is astonishing. It is a rare and beautiful performance that should not be missed.

The entire cast is superb. They must know they are part of something truly special. Townsfolk, played by Paige Gray, Judy Sullivan, Jeff Rossman, Keli Solomon, William Kenyon, Lynn Nissenbaum, Baily McCann, and Chris Marker, accompanied by some fine banjo strumming from John Bolster, deserve their own round of applause.

Once again, the set, designed by Robin Frome, is a work of art in and of itself. Set changes are handled smoothly and seamlessly by many hands.

This unusual boy meets girl tale is not to be passed over. Make every effort to get to Sherman Playhouse before these witches fly away.

As mentioned above, performances continue to October 15. For full schedule, tickets and reservation information call 860-354-3622 or visit ShermanPlayers.org.

The theater is at 5 Route 39, just west of Route 37.

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The set and performances for The Sherman Players production of Howard Richardson and William Berney's Dark of the Moon definitely do justice for the staged drama in which witch boy John (John Squires, kneeling) has fallen in love with village girl Barbara Allen (Kate Morris, standing behind Squires). Among those with strong views about the relationship are The Dark Witch (Jessica Gleason, left) and The Fair Witch (Phair Elizabeth Haldin, right). (Tom Libonate photo)
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