A fire pit and backyard party in the deep woods of Landon, Wyoming seems the perfect setting for fun and good conversation. What could go wrong?
Certainly a relatable situation in contemporary society, Heroes of the Fourth Turning knows how to tackle difficult discussions in a heady and thought provoking way, but leaving the conversation between these five distinct individuals unscathed is seldom a realistic scenario.
Directed by Marianna Bassham who previously directed SpeakEasy’s acclaimed People Places and Things, SpeakEasy Stage Company presents Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning through October 8 live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. This show has adult themes. Click here for more information and tickets.
One of the greatest strengths of Heroes of the Fourth Turning is its multifaceted approach to each of its characters. Each individual is complex and struggling in some way, but are rarely stereotyped and the production is not approached in a divisive way. The show is most effective by keeping an open mind.
It is satirical and darkly humorous from its opening scene with Justin, in hunting gear and a plaid shirt, moments away from shooting a deer. This scenario may seem indicative of some the preconceived notions of conservative thinking and the nature of its forthcoming characters, but it gradually thwarts any preconceived expectations. Its strength is not in the black and white, but delves into the gray corners of each of its characters.
Arbery’s script does not shy away from hot button and controversial issues and the atmosphere can get realistically heated and uncomfortable as it would at any gathering in contemporary society. It offers a glimpse of each character’s unique perspective while their struggle unfolds as well as their flaws.
This cast of well rounded characters and their easy camaraderie is a convincing depiction of a group that has known each other for years, especially between Dayna Cousins as Teresa and Nathan Malin as Kevin. The quirks they know about each other demonstrate their long history. Visiting her hometown from New York, Teresa is the seeming intellectual of the group. Portrayed with nerve and intensity, Teresa has adapted a way of know-it-all thinking that makes her cold and unable to see another viewpoint, stereotyping whoever is unlike her. As she boldly discusses her opinions on the world, she lets loose an air of authority, waiting to be challenged.
Nathan Malin, who showed off his impressive dark comedic skills previously in SpeakEasy’s Admissions and The Sound Inside, portrays comical, chatty, and tormented Kevin. Always ready for a party and deep conversation, Kevin longs to know the real secret of happiness in life as he contends with deep seated guilt and loneliness.
Justin, host of the party and veteran, is portrayed with a mix of sympathy and an air of mystery by Jesse Hinson. A seemingly compassionate individual and clearly affected by his past experiences, it doesn’t take long to see there is much more to his story.
Battling physical ailments is Emily, an angelic portrayal by Elise Piliponis. Emily is sweet and nonjudgmental, but with her own strong and compassionate views. Bearing the brunt of her daily challenges, Emily is insightful and introverted and would like to do anything but argue.
Emily’s mother and much admired Gina, portrayed with charisma and decorum by Karen MacDonald, is no stranger to complex characters such as in SpeakEasy’s The Children and as Erma in Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End. MacDonald thrives here too, depicting a complicated political figure that has impacted each of the other character’s lives.
Heroes of the Fourth Turning is a fascinating, darkly humorous, and concerning look at human nature and though the ending seems outlandish, the clever script offers an interesting perspective on what happens even among the supposed like minded.
SpeakEasy Stage Company presents Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning through October 8 live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. This show has adult themes. Click here for more information and tickets.