Review: Playhouse ends season on heart-warming note


Change, and all its inherent ups and downs, is an issue addressed by all families, and the final season offering by Pioneer Playhouse offers a sweet and sad look at a family struggling with life's permutations.

Central to the action of the play "Bay at the Moon" are Ava and Delmarie (Holly Henson and Patricia Hammond), two sisters contending with their father's (played by Dave Haller) Alzheimer's complications as well as their differences with each other.

Ava is the main care-giver who lives with her father. She alternately is warmly attentive to her father and frustrated with Daddy's often-amusing antics.

Delmarie, married to Ed (Bruce Nicholls), lives next door and has numerous opinions on how Ava should handle Daddy, keep house, and live her life. Naturally, Ava isn't particularly interested in what Delmarie has to say, and resents Delmarie's constant attempts to set her up with men.


Also in the picture are Lonnie (Robert G. Hess), the home health assistant who takes care of Daddy when Ava is off helping Delmarie with a school dance or attending bingo with her, and Lamar (Somerset resident John Alexander), one of those men who Delmarie hopes sparks a dating interest in her sister.

Henson and Hammond play well off one another comedically, and portray the sibling spats in an eerily realistic manner. Watching them brings to mind two sisters nagging and needling each other over the big issues and the minutiae.

Henson conveys stress, love, angst, warmth and loneliness from minute to minute seamlessly and resolutely, while Hammond presents good intentions, love, bewilderment and finally something akin to understanding with a gradual awakening that is convincing and touching.

Ed appears to be a devoted husband, as well as a friend to Ava, and Nicholls depicts Ed with a quiet strength that never moves too far to the forefront but nevertheless is perceptible.

Lonnie reveals bits and pieces of his background, primarily to Ava. Hess brings to the role a poignancy both in Lonnie's effortless helping of those around him and his seeming aloneness in the midst of a group.

The most comedic moments belong to Haller and Alexander. Haller renders Daddy with a fun-loving mix of cantankerousness and warmth, and tosses out humorous, often sharp comments that had the audience guffawing loudly. Alexander's good ol' boy Lamar is one laugh after another, and it was interesting to hear Alexander's smart, funny pre-show speech and watch his dumb, funny character during the show.

The scene changes were enlivened by gospel music sung by Vicki Troxler and Cherine McCowan, both of Danville.

The first act dealt with exposition and laying a groundwork for some of the conflicts in the family. The faster-moving and more interesting second act was funnier and included a few little twists that brightened the overall tapestry of the play.

"Bay at the Moon" was written by Ian Mairs, who was in the audience Wednesday evening, and directed by Henson. The play was dedicated to "The Colonel," Eben C. Henson, and a marvelously touching tribute it was to the late arts pioneer. Just as the play does, the season ends on a warm, upbeat note.

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