The Great Depression drama Holy Days seems fitting, if unoriginal, to produce during our current Great Recession. Beyond the parallels of economic hardship, the play reminds us who suffers the most during these crises—the family.
Enter 1930s Kansas. The reality of barren farms forces many families to pack up and move West, but Holy Days centers on two couples that decide to stay, relying on memory and dream to help each other elude suffering. But years of bad harvests bite through their fragile hope as the dust smoothers their families.
Misery overcomes farm wife Rosie (Heather E. Cunningham), who spends her time sulking around the kitchen in a zombie-like trance for most the play. The urge to walk onstage and shake her out of it owes to Cunningham’s moving performance, though it would’ve been nice to see her bring more depth to the character, instead of handing over her emotions so quickly to the audience. Her neighbor Molly (Casandera M.J. Lollar) brings some welcomed feist to the stage. Lollar displays the right energy, but overdoes the sass, though, making Molly too catty for the part.
Sally Nemeth’s play, produced by Retro Productions, is backed by an intricately beautiful set (courtesy of Jake and Rebecca Cunningham and Justin Sturges), as well as strong performances by Joe Forbrich, as Rosie’s practical-thinking husband, and Lowell Byers, as Molly’s upbeat husband. As the wives and husbands soothe or antagonize each other, Forbrich especially holds the play together by resisting over-dramatics.
Directed by Peter Zinn, Holy Days is rife with long stares, interior monologues, and passive-aggressive snips. Bouts of raised voices and a porch door convenient for slamming break this subdued tone, but the mix of low and high drama is not well blended.