This is the story of Confederate troops led by General Robert E. Lee and their last stand traveling West after the evacuation of the Confederate capital of Richmond.
It is also the tale of Beau and Jenny as they confront not only a volatile secret in their marriage, but a past that threatens to destroy them.
Bush’s language is honest and genuine. It helps create the five characters instead of the characters using the language to their advantage.
The words are filled with meaning, purpose and beauty and make for a play that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Bush knows how to push the audience’s buttons, and does it ever so subtly, yet effectively.
A playwright in the purest and noblest sense, and a master of the intelligent word and instinctual deed, Bush has given us a gift of overwhelming depth, feeling and maturity.
Bush, especially, seems to be underscoring what she deems the “disorder of nature” versus the “order of man.” Lee is special because he makes “order out of disorder.”
The playwright-in-Residence at Barter Theatre in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a wonderfully gifted playwright who seems to have sashayed under the radar for far too long. Hopefully, this play will change that.
Brian Shnipper’s direction fills the Colony’s ample stage with movements, manipulations and massacres. Every action has a reaction, every word a response. Shnipper has gotten the utmost from his actors and they him.
This critic cannot recall more passion, power and precision in any play he has ever seen. This is indeed a “Road” to grace.
The Montclair State University graduate is a talented director who has assembled an equally gifted cast.
Stand outs include:
Shaun Anthony (Colonel Walter Taylor) gives a sensitive and convincing turn as Lee’s right-hand man. This is an actor to be taken seriously. His performance only makes that of Bjorn Johnson (Lee) that much stronger.
Bridget Flanery (Dr. Jenny Weeks) whose compassion and deep understanding of the role come across beautifully throughout. The Yale School of Drama MFA exhibits a clear comprehension of Bush’s words and intentions in a manner that makes one stand up and take notice. Hers is a spontaneous and energetic performance which adds to the positive gravity already apparent in this play.
Brian Ibsen (Steve “Beau” Weeks) is very good as the husband with the secret. He is especially effective in the Second Act, where he shows different sides, aspects and colors of his character with grace and aplomb.
Tyler Pierce (Captain Russell/Chip) almost walks away with the play. The veteran actor, last seen at the Colony in “Handle With Care,” displays a naturalistic style in both roles, but especially as Chip, that would make Marlon Brando and James Dean take notice. Pierce ricochets and rambles across the stage like a giddy yearling and builds quite a momentum for his characters, especially in the First Act.
This is an actor and performance not to be tinkered with. Pierce has, in this critic’s estimation, a very good chance of making it to the next level.
But it is Bjorn Johnson (General Robert E. Lee) who steals the show with a staggering performance of epic highs and lows that breathes life into the aura of the legendary General. The Broadway veteran’s wonderfully sensitive, yet courageous portrayal will no doubt turn heads.
His is a firm, decisive, yet almost artistic vision of Lee’s final, bewildering and tragic hours. This critic would very much like to see Johnson on the stages of Burbank or Los Angeles again soon.
The play’s message is furthered by the scenic design of David Potts, in all its splendor, detail and grace, lighting design of Jared A. Sayeg, sound design of Dave Mickey and costume design of Dianne K. Graebner.
All in all, “The Road to Appomattox” is a brilliant play about war because it takes a unique and rather unusual view of the struggle between men and nations, in this case, the North and South during this country’s seminal Civil War.
In this, the sesquicentennial of the end of that epic American struggle, this “Road” takes us on a journey to the very definition of humanity.
This play, the fourth production of the Colony’s 40th anniversary 2014-15 season, is a gripping and dazzling work of art that has you hanging on every word and never leaves you wondering or questioning.
It makes itself abundantly clear, and has its finger on the pulse of existence philosophically, emotionally and spiritually.
The Colony should be given infinite kudos for bringing this ultra-creative production to the Los Angeles area.
It appears that all is well on North Third Street. If this playhouse chooses more plays of this caliber, it will only add to its growing reputation as one of the most innovative and popular theatres not only in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, but the country.
In other words, miss this play at your own expense.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Thursdays & Fridays at 8pm;
Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm;
Sundays at 2pm
Ticket prices range from $20-$49 (group discounts are available)
Information/Admission: (818) 558-7000
555 North Third Street (at Cypress) adjacent to the Burbank Town Center Mall