The Goat Farm Arts Center provides the perfect setting for The Collective Project Inc.’s production of The Devil Tree. A perfect addition to your Halloween activities, The Devil Tree weaves a creepy, intense twist on Faustian tales pulled straight from southern folklore.
The ruins of the former cotton mill along with the darkness of the evening (at least on opening night) create a spooky atmosphere to usher the audience into the Rodriguez Room at The Goat Farm Arts Center.
The supernatural play, set in two acts 18 years apart, follows several families in Laurel County, a fictional South Georgia County. A young man (John Reed) opens the play by describing the hot, ominous county and the fact that he is on trial for robbing a corpse. As the first act progresses, he explains to the sheriff (Josh Brook) the supernatural twist to his story. Interspersed through the act are scenes with a young doctor and his grieving wife.
At the heart of the story is a box that allows its holder to obtain his greatest desire. Like in the classic story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” the wish can be filled literally or figuratively, but the consequences could be disastrous.
Each of the actors in the production provides a solid performance that commands your attention, with a few playing multiple roles. Kathy Newman, in the dual roles of Old Sumpter and Lucille Wright, creates memorable characters, but Andrew Crigler, as Owen Godwin, shows that he is one of the city’s rising stars. Delightful to watch, he brings charisma to the role and gives the sinister character a boyish charm, which is perfect for the trickster.
Based on a number of short stories, this original piece written by Atlanta authors crafts a well-woven narrative. The dialogue sounds natural in most places, but in a few scenes, a decision was made to keep first person narration that describe the actions of the characters. While it works in the opening scene, in other scenes the concept detracts from the overall effect of the drama and risks taking the audience out of the action altogether.
The simple set, designed by Elizabeth Jarrett, features a dark, evil tree created with found items that represent the story and the setting. This tree, along with rafters in the room, are draped with moss and sit in front of dilapidated walls. All of the elements work to create a foreboding atmosphere.
A delightfully macabre experience, The Devil Tree, produced by The Collective Project Inc. and directed by Corey Bradberry, plays through October 28, 2012 at the Goat Farm Arts Center. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show runs about two and a half hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton