Theater Review: Damon Faulke play at Armory for Arts Theater
The Sun is in the West is an atmospheric play about the importance of place and the roots of history that bind us together throughout generations. Its also a play about remembering and the importance of sharing and passing down stories. The production, produced by Square Top Repertory Theatre in cooperation with Santa Fe Performing Arts will run for two nights only at the Armory for the Arts Theater May 14 & 15.
“Mornings came up purple in that country. The way the sun would come up over the mountains and all. The canyons and the desert. I could watch the sun come up and be certain there were entire worlds I would never know.”
This is the language of a poet, a cemetery groundskeeper, one of four characters in Damon Falkes play The Sun is in the West. The other three are a photographer, a historian and a bluegrass playing ghost who never speaks. The Sun is in the West is an atmospheric play about the importance of place and the roots of history that bind us together throughout generations. Its also a play about remembering and the importance of sharing and passing down stories.
Set in a cemetery in coastal Texas near Galveston, imagery of land and sky are woven throughout the play. The many layers of history and narrative pile up as the story progresses and we learn about these people who spend so much time communing with the dead. The theme of the play is summed up early on when the Historian enters the stage in his dress slacks, buttoned down shirt and blazer.
“Think of history as something large, and then recall the historian who claimed that all of us are historical figures. That is, we all exist in history, and our existence, plain though it may be, counts for something more than our short lives.”
Each of these characters has experienced loss. The photographer spends time at the cemetery visiting her parents graves trying to deal with their sudden death. The historian and groundskeeper are both searching for someone buried in the cemetery, someone they havent yet found, someone to whom family stories say they are connected. Each character comes to find the power of the ordinary. And they understand the meaning of letting go and of holding on and what it means to watch the sun set on their lives.
Staging is simple, with several 6 foot tall photographic panels of sky and clouds set in sand shaped to resemble large headstones. There are no intermissions which allow one to lose themselves in the imagery, sounds and smells of place in a sometimes slow moving production. The characters remain on stage throughout and utilize sometimes complex blocking sequences to move about the stage. Movement and body language are emphasized. The production stars Felicia Meyer as the photographer, Sean Downing as the groundskeeper and Geoff Johnson as the historian. All handle their roles with reverence.
None of the stories of these people intertwine and yet they play off one another as each tells their own tale of how they came to be in this place and what keeps them in this specific and unforgiving country. The play explores the stories of life and how they echo through generations, the stories, the sky, the water all draw these characters for differing reasons that unite in some meaning of home. A home that is changing, that may be coming to an end, one that they want to hold on to, yet must let go.
“[Memory] I fear is all that can be saved of any of us,” the historian says.
Another important element to this production is the ability to see, to pause and look and really take in ones surroundings. And to see not only with the eyes, but with the soul.
“There are things underneath what we see,” the photographer says. “Sometimes they show themselves and not just in people but in the world and in the objects of the world.”
Earlier the photographer states:
“You look around a place like this, where the world seems so flat and colorless and plain, but then you find something that connects to something else, some part of your past and something larger you hope, and then you know you have been looking.”
Thats what this play does.
As one sits, observes and listens, imagining, smelling, and sensing all that this play offers one begins to find something in each of these characters stories that connects to something within. Perhaps one leaves the theatre transformed or simply more aware that the sun is setting, what memories will we save by sharing.