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Review: UMD's 'As I Lay Dying': admirable work

In "As I Lay Dying," a UMD Theatre performance playing Wednesday through Saturday at Marshall Performing Arts Center, wife and mother Addie Bundren dies in the first scenes. However, her physical presence is prominent until the play's end. She is...

In "As I Lay Dying," a UMD Theatre performance playing Wednesday through Saturday at Marshall Performing Arts Center, wife and mother Addie Bundren dies in the first scenes. However, her physical presence is prominent until the play's end. She is the glue that holds her family together even in her death.
Based on William Faulkner's renowned novel, this stage adaptation by Grafton Mouen of necessity compresses action, but all-in-all, it remains true to Faulkner's story.
About a hard-scrabble, 1930s-era Mississippi family, the children are indeed as important as the parents in this tale. Four sons, one daughter and their father prepare for their matriarch's death and when it comes, struggle to grant her last wish to be buried with her family, some distance away in the Yoknapatawpha County seat.
The disparities in thought, in feeling and in worldview among this family do not keep it from working as a unit. Each individual carries unique pain and aspirations, yet not one hesitates to bring the mother to her resting place.
Addie Bundren, played by Aimee Trumbore, has chosen her time of death. She had always wanted to be alone but bore five children. She's cleaned her house and is ready to die.
Her family believes her. Her son Cash, a carpenter played by Charles Gorilla, sits within earshot of Addie's deathbed, tooling away at a casket. He's certain about how to construct it, and he's proud of his work.
The funeral march is travail-filled. Getting the family and the casket across a flood-swollen river presents a frightening dilemma. Director Tom Isbell and his production crew should take bows for this scene. They make us believe that everyone's drowning.
However effective, though, some theater-goers were bothered by fumes from the special effects. Fortunately, intermission saved them.
While they survive the river, each child grievously loses on this journey. Cash is permanently injured. Jewel (Brandon Breault), whose father is not Addie's husband, must offer up his hard-earned, treasured animal to replace the drowned muleteam. Seventeen-year-old Dewey-Dell (Angie Martin) must give over to her father money she needs for a medical procedure. Darl (Andy Nelson) is locked away after setting a fire to burn his mother's casket. Vardaman, the youngest, a 10 year old played by Adam Hummel, begins to confuse his mother with a fish.
Addie returns throughout the play until she's buried. We learn that her son by another man is her sin and her salvation.
One of her children accuses Anse, who instigated the odyssey at his wife's bidding, of wanting "to kill all of us like you killed Addie." Another feels Addie's "callin' on God to hide her from the sight of man."
At play's end, the weakest character, father Anse (Andrew Bennett) makes out. That his children have so suffered, he seems not to care. Ultimately, I find this story a testament of children to their mother, of blood allegiance. It is pulled off admirably by UMD Theatre.

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