Review of Scarlet Cup Theater’s ‘Distant Music’

Published 4:34 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2021


Managing director at West T. Hill Theatre

Scarlet Cup Theater’s 8th production to open its 6th season is a real treat. Live theatre is truly alive and well in Danville! Scarlet Cup continues with its unique flair of taking us to venues that only accentuate the theater-going experience. As I walked into the visitor’s center at Wilderness Trail Distillery, I knew I was in for a treat. Beyond the beauty of the place, it had a welcome feel and, I swear, a whiff of something “brewing!”  Surrounded by vats of cooking goodness, it made me comfortable. I am not a “barfly,” but I grew up where taverns and bars were on nearly every neighborhood corner, and I always appreciated the conversations I heard about the camaraderie and joy that spilled over with bar talk.

Email newsletter signup

That is what you first notice in James McClindon’s play “Distant Music.” There is an energy, a joy, a warmth exuding from his written dialogue. And the actors deliver each line, each thought, with the same emotion. I have worked with these actors before, I have appreciated their work, and this effort does not disappoint. We first find Connor and Dev “shooting the breeze,” as my grandfather would say, and then the conversations turn to deeper and more pressing, personal issues. Over mugs of stout, we hear these two old friends discuss things from religion to relationships — they poke, prod and invade sometimes to the point of exasperation. It is a feat to watch these characters share with us their inner most secrets, desires, truths and lies.

Both Chuck Taylor and Elijah Brown know their roles well.  Elijah Brown has a way with voices and can turn on a dime with his accents that are on point every time. This young man’s talent is evident — you believe he is Irish, and you believe he has tended bar for years. Chuck Taylor is one of the most solid actors around and has a way of endearing the audience — you know you are in good hands when he is performing.  Shortly into the play, Maeve, an old friend to Connor and a new customer to bartender Dev, enters the bar. You know right away there is a “love interest” somewhere, but we have to patiently wait for all the pieces to fall into place. The actors proceed to take us into personal dilemmas, soul searching, crises of faith and romance. It is a fine journey. Maeve, played by Julie Goens, is an interesting young woman filled with conviction, passion and mostly a lot of love. Julie’s performance pours the cement that binds these performances together in a fine artistic piece.

From the bartender’s erratic quotes of James Joyce’s works, to Irish jokes and outrageous stories, this production is a solid and well-put-together piece. The playwright’s dialogue is amazingly relatable, and the actors bring McClindon’s work alive in a vibrant way. Congratulations to Elizabeth Orndorff and Mimi Becker for bringing it all together. I enjoyed every minute, and there was not a single lull, nary a missed opportunity to entertain. Don’t miss this — treat yourself!