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“Prairie Nocturne” at Book-It | Arts Stage – Seattle Rage

“Prairie Nocturne” at Book-It

Adapted by Elena Hartwell from Ivan Doigt’s novel of the same name and directed by Laura Ferri, “Prairie Nocturne” is sustenance for Seattle’s conscious stricken liberals who seek an equitable society.

The time is 1924; the place is the Montana plains. Monty Rathbun, (Geoffery Simmons) is a man with a remarkable voice and enormous potential, but he’s black. Wesley Williamson (Shawn Belyea), who employs him as his chauffer, approaches his former lover, voice teacher Susan Duff (Myra Platt), to coach Monty. Thus begins a saga of thwarted ambition, racial prejudice, Ku Klux Klan violence, hate, and love.

The cast is amazingly versatile. Who knew that Myra Platt, Book-It’s co-founder and co-artistic director and here the female lead, is an accomplished pianist? Where else would you find actors that seamlessly move from stage to orchestra pit and excel in both roles? The entire cast works well together, and all but the leads take on more than one role.

Throughout the production Doig’s poetic language flows beautifully through the theatre as it evokes images of landscape and illuminates the human condition.

Yet for all its strengths, this production becomes tedious, drawn out, and far too long. It’s an adaptation that attempted too much, a production that would have been more compelling had some of the peripheral stories and characters that enrich the novel but weigh down the stage version been left out.

There’s a line in the script: “If you don’t dominate the audience, it will dominate you.” This production failed to dominate this audience member.

“Prairie Nocturne” through March 4 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org)

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