Alejandro Casona’s long and storied career as one of Spain’s great literary personalities in the 20th century may have made him a household name in both his native country and his adopted country of Argentina, but he is a relative unknown in the English-speaking world. That’s why we’re so excited to bring this American premiere of the English-language translation by Lia Beeson to Hannibal’s BCT stage as the fourth offering in our season devoted to the theme of Faith.
The plot is deceptively simple- a young grandson is banished from his ancestral home after he is discovered stealing and he physically attacks them. Grandma is heartbroken because, while not unaware of the boy’s faults, she believes that, deep inside, he is inherently good and worthy of her faith. Her loving husband, to ease her agony of regret, “invents” a fictional grandson who sends letters from Canada where he has settled. The letters are filled with stories of his new life, his adventures and his efforts to reinvent himself as a student, an architect and then a husband. As grandmother nears the end of her life, she is reassured that her faith was justified.
Then disaster strikes when a telegram arrives from the real grandson announcing that he is coming for a visit. The grandfather knows that his subterfuge of 20 years is about to be uncovered, until by some miracle, the ship his grandson is traveling on sinks at sea and all hands are lost. And so, to continue the illusion, he hires two actors to play the grandson and his new bride. Reasonably, after 20 years, who can say what the grandson will look like?
All of this sets up a story which is at heart about romance and the importance of believing in something or someone. Casona neatly illustrates that faith and fantasy are intertwined- we need to believe in something, even if that something is a fantasy.
Trees Die Standing Tall plays like a British Farce in the vein Noel Coward (Casona’s contemporary). There are plenty of laughs, improbable coincidences and mistaken identities. It’s also a tender story about love- love that has survived the ages, young love that blossoms accidentally and familial love between generations.
In her BCT debut, St. Louis native Donna Weinsting masterfully portrays the proud and dignified yet sentimental grandmother Eugenie Balboa. Alan Knoll, also in his BCT debut is her husband Fernan who cannot bear to see his wife in agony and so embroils himself in an ever-more-complicated situation to sustain her faith. They lead a spectacular cast that includes Matthew Amira, Em Piro, Jesse Munoz and local actors Jules King, Karen Myers, Kristy Bradshaw and Evie Rodenbaugh.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch a play at Bluff City Theater this season, don’t miss this one. Preview performance is this Thursday, June 28th with the official opening on Friday June 29th at 7:30 p.m. There will be two performances Saturday- at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Next week, shows run Wednesday to Saturday evenings with a matinee again on Saturday at 2.
This year, for the first time ever, we will have a performance on July 4th for Tom Sawyer Days. This performance starts a half-hour earlier- 7 p.m.- to allow theater-goers plenty of time to get out for the fireworks.
Tickets are $26 for adults, $15 for youth and can be purchased online in advance at www.eventshannibal.com or over the phone at 573-719-3226. While tickets will be available at the door for most performances, it is still recommended that guests reserve their tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Trees Die Standing Tall is made possible through a generous contribution from Next New Planet.