Historical Footnote: THE CLEARING

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Photo credit: The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company

Presented by The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company
by Helen Edmundson
Directed by Nora Hussey

January 9 – February 2, 2014
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Dana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall
Wellesley MA 02481

The theatre is handicapped accessible, for disability services Jim Wice @ 781-283-2434

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Wellesley) If, like me, you have a history degree that you find yourself using as a doorstop or a paper weight, then you might like any play or movie that has cannons, bodices, and acts of Parliament.  But it’s hard to judge whether a work of historical fiction is actually good, or if it’s just an excuse to geek out on people talking about legislation and wars of yesteryear.

I really still can’t say for sure where The Clearing lands in that debate.  This Irish drama, curiously performed in winter by the Wellesley Summer Theatre Company, certainly fulfills the historical geeky requirements.  The action unfolds on an exquisitely drawn map of 17th century Ireland, in the lull between the bloody convulsions of Oliver Cromwell’s revolution in England.  Ireland is teetering on the edge of a bloody genocide of retribution. We follow English and Irish families as they try to avoid the knife’s edge of history.

But is The Clearing good theater?  Here, things get a bit muddled.  There are some fine pin-drop moments on stage, to be sure, but there are lulls, as well.  Irish accents vary wildly among people in the same village, and English accents also are pulled off in varying degrees of success.  And Helen Edmundson’s script sometimes requires actors to deliver some clunky lines that seem at home in a soap opera.

Such limitations probably mean you will enjoy this play if you love a good, chewy historical political thriller, but you might be less forgiving, and therefore, disappointed, if you don’t love a good historical yarn.


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