SALT LAKE CITY — Behold, Zebulon is a play about Molly, a shy woman who moves from suburban Ohio to a small town in North Carolina after a mild mental breakdown. Wiling away the lonely hours when her husband is at work, Molly walks through the town and meets all the kooky characters one would expect to find in the South.
There is little substance to the script by Angus MacLachlan, and while the Westminster Players really put their hearts into the show, this production fell flat. There is only so much a director or cast can do with a loose collection of story monologues and episodic scenes.
Director Michael Vought chose a minimalistic approach to the material. This made sense for the set (designed by Nina Vought) because of the many different locations the story requires. But the lack of props, consistent dialects, period-specific costumes (designed by Erin M. West), background actors, and other defining features made the show seem detached and placeless, a rough walk-through of a vague outline of a script.
In the opening scene, Sylvia (played by Janie DeFriez) had a one-sided conversation with her children who didn’t actually appear anywhere on the stage. DeFriez paced back and forth, exchanging dialogue with general directions (stage right, stage left, up stage right, down stage right, etc.) instead of other actors or even specific points of focus. The effect was dizzying, and that made it hard to connect with Sylvia. The central conceit of the show seemed to be that Sylvia had a profound impact on Molly at a very young age, but I had a hard time believing that when this critical moment was so nonspecific and vague.
That’s not to say that the actors didn’t play their parts well. Most of the cast members had more than one role, and they shifted between them easily. All of the actors seemed to have a good sense of self within each character. Carlie Young played a sweet and shy Molly who clearly wanted to be a part of something more than her lonely little life. As Doris, Katelyn Limber’s breakdown was the comic highlight of the evening. In the roles of Steve and Carl, Steve Allyn’s monologue about the war and his life afterward was definitely my favorite. Allyn was so dry and present and Southern. Finally, Tyler Palo (playing Joey and Clifford) deserves special praise for playing a believable child, something most adult actors struggle to do. I would have liked to have seen these supporting actors take on more roles, fill in the blanks left in so many of the scenes where they were talking to and interacting with thin air.
This talented cast made a valiant attempt at bringing the zany residents of Zebulon to life, but despite their best efforts, the production suffered from a lack of any growth or change. Molly began the show by telling the audience why she was in Zebulon. She spent a few minutes with each character or set of characters, listening quietly as they talked. After about an hour and a half of quiet listening, the audience learned that Molly had actually been monologuing at Sylvia’s best friend this whole time. The end. While there were some funny moments in the show, there was virtually nothing else, and the play literally ended right where it began—Molly actually repeated her opening monologue. I think she was supposed to have some earth-shattering epiphany, but there just was not enough context for me to feel sympathy for her. In the end, I was happy that she had found someone who would listen to her. And that’s about it.