Morality issues, personal drama

Play: The Colonial Players company is opening its production of "The Clearing," which is set in 1650s Ireland, tomorrow.

January 18, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Colonial Players continues its 52nd season by doing what the company does best, introducing to the area a relatively new, substantive work.

Beginning tomorrow, the all-volunteer company will present "The Clearing" by contemporary British playwright Helen Edmundson.

The play was acclaimed by critics when it first appeared in London in 1993 and in its U.S. debut in Chicago in 1996, with comparisons to American playwright Arthur Miller in the way great moral issues are addressed within a personal drama.

Set in 1650s Ireland after Oliver Cromwell's invasion, "The Clearing" reflects the conditions of the time through the story of English Protestant landowner Robert Preston and his Irish Catholic wife, Madeleine.

Under Cromwell, the English are forcing the Irish out of Ireland, transplanting royalist landowners and Irish rebels to the West Indies, with anyone who resists the decree facing execution. In the play, Preston is forced to choose between his wife and holding on to his land.

Edmundson's historical drama has relevance to such 20th-century atrocities as the Nazi Holocaust and the slaughters in Bosnia and Rwanda, and the persistence of racial persecution heightens the play's message.

In a recent discussion of the play, Colonial Players director Mary Fawcett Watko said that in her preparation she had researched Ireland in the 1650s and that although she had been "aware of Cromwell's barbaric behavior, as the history unfolded the discoveries were a bit of a shock."

Watko said she found that "the characters portrayed are based on reality. Their experiences were real."

In rehearsals, every member of the cast was dedicated to giving an honest portrayal of the reality of those times, she said.

Such a powerful drama demands strong actors, and the Colonial Players cast should meet the challenge. It includes Mac Bogert as Preston. Bogert may be remembered for his Players performances as Bill Ray in "On Golden Pond" and as musical director of last season's "The Robber Bridegroom."

Playing Madeleine is CeCe McGee-Newbrough, returning to the company after a few years' absence. She last appeared with it in the 1995 production of "Lost in Yonkers."

Frank B. Moorman, recently seen in Colonial Players' "Learned Ladies" and "Hogan's Goat" will play the middle-aged English Protestant Solomon Winter.

Others include Heather Quinn, making her first Colonial Players appearance as Killaine Farrell, Madeleine's servant and best friend; and company veteran Eric Lund as the young Irish rebel Pierce Kinsellagh.

Terri Madden, seen as Anne Molkahi in last season's "Hogan's Goat," will play Solomon's wife, Susaneh Winter. Cary Myles, another company veteran, will portray extremist Sir Charles Sturman, and Ray Fulton, another veteran, will take on three roles, a commissioner of transportation, a sailor and an appeals judge.

"The Clearing" will run through Feb. 17, with performances Thursdays through Sundays at Colonial Players' Annapolis theater at 108 East St.

Subscribers hold about 80 percent of the seats, and the others are available by calling the box office at 410-268-7373.

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