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Great Falls
by Lee Blessing
Directed by Tom Kopp
West End Players Guild
April 9, 2016

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

Great Falls is not a happy play, and that’s an understatement. The newest offering from West End Players Guild is a two-person travelogue of a play that takes its audience on a tour not only of the American Northwest, but of its lead characters’ emotions and personal struggles. It’s a well-cast character study that does manage to evoke a few laughs, although for the most part its outlook on life is grim.

The characters here–a recently divorced man and his former stepdaughter–aren’t given names. They’re listed in the program and referred to in the play as Monkey Man (Isaiah DiLorenzo) and Bitch (Shannon Lampkin). In the wake of multiple infidelities and an acrimonious divorce, Monkey Man is eager to salvage his relationship with his ex-wife’s daughter, so he takes her on an impromptu road trip to South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana with the intention of revisiting the locations of his own childhood vacations, as well as having some serious conversations. Although his intent is to maintain a relationship, Bitch isn’t interested, at least at first. Through the course of the play, their journey takes them to a variety of well-known and lesser known locations, and some surprising truths are revealed. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that many of those truths are unpleasant, and the play’s revelations about the nature of the men and boys in Bitch’s life are more than a little disturbing. It has its lighter moments, but the overall mood is increasingly dark.

The interplay between the two performers is the highlight of this production. DiLorenzo portrays a determined, guilt-plagued Monkeyman, trying to maintain a sense of optimism and not quite succeeding, as he continually spars with Lampkin’s snarky, moody character who insists that Monkeyman call her Bitch. Their verbal sparring is the centerpiece of the show, and their journey from antipathy to empathy and beyond is compelling to watch.

The setting here is fairly simple. As usual for most WEPG productions, the production utilizes the stage and the area in front of it, with Stephanie Draper’s set framed by material suggesting a cavern of some sort. There’s a low-budget hotel room set on the stage, and a simple framework of Monkeyman’s car that is brought for several scenes, and a backdrop with projections representing the various landmarks the characters visit. The costumes, by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave, are well-suited to the characters, and Draper’s lighting is also effective.

This play is more than “not happy”, really. It can be downright depressing, with an ending that leaves more questions than answers. Themes of estrangement, loneliness, violence and assault are addressed in a matter-of-fact manner that can be jarring and relentless. Still, it does a good job of creating a mood and setting, and the characters are well portrayed.  Great Falls is not for all audiences, but it tells a memorable story.

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

Great Falls is being presented by West End Players Guild at Union Avenue Christian Church until April 17th, 2016.

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