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Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 1990

SLOW TO BUILD DRAMA

October 24, 1990

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"Thunder Rock" lives up to its name. The play makes a great deal of noise and sits as heavily as a rock.

That's not to say the 1939 drama, which opened Tuesday night at the Inge Theatre, lacks engrossing ideas or a good production. It has both.

Set on the eve of World War II, "Thunder Rock" looks at an ex-journalist named Charleston (Jeffrey Orr) who, in full retreat from the horrors of the world, runs an isolated lighthouse on a Lake Michigan island. During a lengthy first-act talk with a pilot friend leaving to fight the Japanese in China, we discover the journalist has dreamed up six imaginary "survivors" from an 1849 shipwreck. In the later two acts, we see how these characters play out the journalist's pessimistic outlook on humanity. And, as one might expect, the imaginary characters eventually take control, forcing Charleston to re-evaluate his ideas.

THE PLAYWRIGHT, Robert Ardrey, obviously saw the tumult fast approaching in 1939. Here he tried to address the hopelessness that had festered in the United States during the Depression and the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. In some ways, the play anticipates Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist philosophy of engagement

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