Promises: a Story Through the Ages

“Lamenting change even as it rejoices in it; mourning the passing of the old and dear, even as it celebrates the arrival of the new.” Even before the play starts, this line in the Director’s note caught my attention and prepared me (in a good way) for a show about happy endings and sad histories. Promises did indeed incorporate this idea. Joseph Thompson (Will Allen) visits the North Shore Cemetery Annual Decoration. Through his new found friendship with Liz Andrews, the story of his family and their history in Proctor, North Carolina is revealed.

The cast took full advantage of the levels and space of the set. With lighting effects, flashbacks seamlessly work together with present day scenes on stage. The set blended a sort of abstract realism that was helped along with the projections in the background. These projections were well thought out and executed a combination of realistic and non-realistic images to help support the action at the time. My favorite image was the transition effect used for the flashback within a flashback. The car and house on screen melted away and faded into stars in a wide open sky.

Live musicians created a refreshingly authentic feel to the production. Even during scenes that recorded audio was used; the sound design appeared to concentrate on highlighting the musicians. These talented people brought the ambiance of wedding, dance, or celebration to the audience.

On top of that, Appalachian State University included a talented cast of people. Accents were hardly ever dropped during the show and characters were convincingly portrayed. Sloane Hickson as Quill Hopkins oozed across and assaulted the scenes in a clear antagonistic archetype. Jacob Thompson (Carson Rich) and Rachael Payne Thompson (Paige Borden) shared a charming chemistry full of light kisses and warm embraces.

Fallon McKeon as Jan Walker stole the stage every time she walked on, which didn’t happen often. She dominated the space with her mix of defiant and immature mannerisms. This and her whiny voice convinced us that she was indeed that bratty High School kid everyone either knows or was at one point.

Nothing is private in a small town, even promises.