Confessions are good for the soul – so they say. For many people, and families, bringing a secret into the light of day is a healing process. Like any family, the one in Essential Theatre’s Great Falls, holds its share of baggage and secrets.
The play takes the audience on a parallel emotional journey to the characters’ own trip through the scenic west. A play this emotional requires a talented cast and well-crafted dialogue. If a play is poorly written, great acting can save it and vice-versa. Audiences seeing Great Falls don’t have any worry; it excels in both.
While the two characters are severely flawed, both Emmett Furrow and Ashleigh Hoppe bring emotional depth and a genuine sense of humanity to each of their characters to win the audience over. For Hoppe, playing a role with an aptly chosen and slightly unprintable name, she displays a vulnerability that commands the audience to be sympathetic and empathetic. In the wrong hands, the character could come across as arrogant and rude, but she shows us that there is a hurt little girl behind her flippant, sarcastic remarks.
Likewise, Furrow’s portrayal of the stepfather, shows a humble man trying to hold some sense of the past. His character’s transition from pain and heartbreak to a quiet resolve is emotional and believable, despite a few slight emotional exaggerations. Without his gentle touch to the character, the stepfather could also be seen as arrogant and selfish.
Written by Lee Blessing, Great Falls has wit, but its powerful dialogue and gut-wrenching story create a powerful study of the effects that abuse has on its victims and those they love. This psychological drama becomes even more exceptional with the chemistry between the two actors. Hoppe’s delivery with Furrow’s humble compassion makes it seem as though we really are watching a step-father and step-daughter try to mend their broken relationship. Director Ellen McQueen uses a simple set effectively although the extended set changes between scenes did pull the audience away from the emotion of the play.
Overall, Great Falls takes us on a journey to discover ourselves and confront our own hurts and fears as we watch two characters fall apart and heal onstage. If nothing else, the acting alone makes this play worth seeing. Hoppe, based on this powerful performance and her strong performance in Actor’s Express’ Good Boys and True, is certainly a rising star in the Atlanta theatre scene.
There are only a few chances left to see these exceptional acting performances. Great Falls plays in repertory at Essential Theatre with A Sleeping Country and A Thousand Circlets through the end of the month. For tickets, please visit the Essential Theatre website.
– Kenny Norton