‘Promises,’ an American Fairy Tale

By: Sally Henry

“Privacy isn’t a priority.”

If I had a dime for every time a character in new playwright Joel Williams’s play Promises spoke the above mantra, I could retire at age 32.

Appalachian State’s production of this North Carolina mountains folk tale at KCACTF on February 8 boasted detailed sets and a great actor, but even those elements could not mask the lukewarm script.

Promises has a Forrest Gump or Big Fish feel to it, as a graying man, Joseph Thompson (Will Allen), tells his father’s life story to a practical stranger.

While the story was sweet, the beginning was particularly hard to follow, and most of Act I was exposition. The story starts in 1993 and flashes back to 1932-1944. While the audience knows that the couple from the ‘30s and ’40s has a happy ending, there was too little explanation as to how exactly their very real problems resolved. The show’s abrupt ending left this writer wanting more detail than, “one thing led to another… and everyone lived happily ever after.”

For the most part, the actors delivered their lines very presentationally. Their delivery indicated that few of them had discovered the reasoning, much less heart, behind the words they spoke.

The only strikingly great thing about the show was Carson Rich. Playing young Jacob Thompson, he really stood out and carried the show. His strong stage presence was refreshing as he powerfully committed to every range of his character’s emotion and successfully connected to the audience.

From an audience perspective, there were many sightline issues with actors failing to cheat out, clumping together, and obstructing the view of a good third of the audience in the process.

At the conclusion of the show, I had so many lingering plot questions, including, but not limited to: what was going on in the first half of Act I? Why did no one miss or come looking for the evil guy that two of the characters killed? Why could neither woman hold on to a weapon to save her life? And why in the world did these quaint mountaineers regularly insist on disregarding personal privacy? No really, if you figure that one out, let me know.

Blog: http://singularsensationbway.blogspot.com // BroadwayWorld.com: www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway