Imaginative One Act, “Lonesome Hollow,” Raises Questions In WEPG’s Opener

B. Weller, Elizabeth Graverman and Jeff Kargus in WEPG's "Lonesome Hollow." Photo: John Lamb

B. Weller, Elizabeth Graverman and Jeff Kargus in WEPG’s “Lonesome Hollow.” Photo: John Lamb

Some fine actors traverse through Lee Blessing’s long one-act, “Lonesome Hollow,” and at the end, we’re still wondering who’s more perverse, the “inmates” accused of sex crimes, or the facility personnel who show some pretty odd behavior as well. Lonesome Hollow is the name of the town which is really a prison for sex offenders and the more serious cases are trapped there as are the folks who are lesser offenders but appear to be there at the whim of a government entity who perceive them to be dangerous. Set in the not-too-distant future, it’s another cautionary tale of how far those in power can go if unleashed to do what they think is right. This is West End Players Guild opening play of their new season.

Jeff Kargus is powerful as the prisoner who is there because his book of photographs of nude women is considered pornographic. How long is he there? Seems that’s up to the staff at Lonesome Hollow. Despite certain promises, he never seems to be able to gain his freedom. Along with him is a serious child molester who seems unapologetic and has developed some serious addictions and strange behaviors. B. Weller plays Nye with broad but appropriate strokes and provides some of the sparse but much needed humor in a script that slams the point home with sledgehammer strokes. Tuck, the character played by Kargus, has been building a labyrinth that becomes the focal point of the scene and of the story. Several people traverse the labyrinth throughout the evening but no one ever really completes the spiritual and calming journey which also provides a metaphor for this prison town. The sound of almost non-stop random gunfire is heard in the distance and this is used as a further incentive to keep the prisoners in tow. Is it hunters as they speculate, snipers picking off those who try to escape or is it all fake?

Rachel Hanks and Mark Abels share angry remarks in "Lonesome Hollow" at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

Rachel Hanks and Mark Abels share angry remarks in “Lonesome Hollow” at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

Elizabeth Graverman is stern and shifty as a staff member, Mills, who may be a guard or even more authoritative figure. As her cohort in crime against these powerless victims is Glover, played with conviction by Mark Abels. Both show their seamier side as the play marches on and, if not for somehow gaining the power, could easily be prisoners in their own little dictatorship. Rounding out the cast is Rachel Hanks as Tuck’s sister who comes to visit him and winds up being threatened herself in this degenerate game of cat and mouse played out by Mills and Glover.

Robert Ashton has directed with a flair for the sordid and despicable premise and- not only gets your blood boiling- but leaves plenty of questions for you to digest once the long evening is over. “Lonesome Hollow” is very reflective of what’s going on in our political situation today with one party trying to hold the rest of the country hostage. Stubbornly refusing to give in to freedoms, they go off the edge to make everyone subservient to how they perceive society should act and the extreme punishment for those who don’t conform. Of course, as I said, as we so often see, the people in power become immune to their own brand of justice. Ken Clark has designed the simple but effective labyrinth centered by a tree stump and Nathan Schroeder’s lights enhance this bizarre story. Beth Ashby has provided appropriate costumes for this somewhat futuristic setting- suits, ties and severe looks for those in charge and a more casual attire for those who have no hope for the future.

Jeff Kargus and Mark Abels discuss Tuck's fate in WEPG's "Lonesome Hollow." Photo: John Lamb

Jeff Kargus and Mark Abels discuss Tuck’s fate in WEPG’s “Lonesome Hollow.” Photo: John Lamb

“Lonesome Hollow” raises a lot of questions and food for thought but, as I said, it’s a bit too long (almost two hours without intermission) and it hammers the obvious points home so strongly that it almost overwhelms the audience. No nuance, no innuendo- it’s pretty clear where accomplished playwright Lee Blessing is trying to go with this one. But some fine performances keep you from squirming in your seat too often. Contact the West End Players Guild at 314-367-0025 or at westendplayers.org for tickets or more information. “Lonesome Hollow” runs through October 6th.

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