Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

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HT: Cardinal’s second radio play is scary good

Connie Shakalis | H-T Reviewer

October 19, 2020

Cardinal Stage’s second walkabout play, “The Brewsters,” by Emily Goodson, is a prologue to Cardinal’s earlier “The Women in the Woods.” This plot is more interesting, and Goodson is good at adding humor that is clever.


Her narration kept me looking behind me as I trekked the Indiana University campus Saturday morning. No one, it seemed, was out yet, and the cold creek and color-changing woods were delightfully ghostly.


It’s the midst of the 19th century, between the Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, and we meet local teenager Lizzie as she wanders, against her mother’s caveats, into the woods.


Things are seldom what they seem is the theme, and succulent surprises lurk.


Goodson includes many of the university’s sites and decorative details, allowing us to see facets of this superb campus we might have previously missed. It’s a radio-play via walking tour, a forceful way to take in a story.


All four actors were believable and entertaining, Shannon Starks scaring me the most. I’m just wondering, though, if “The Brewsters” is the right play for this venue type, at least the way the characters are written. All four are female, and again, as happened in the first walkabout play, I had trouble determining which of the three adults was speaking.


Because of the period and place, they need English accents, which the women mastered beautifully. But a plot using different genders and accents would have helped me keep the characters separate. It’s a lot to ask of an audience: follow the map (of course, I got lost again, but that’s my own fault); don’t stumble into the creek or trip over a red oak root; follow Goodson’s complicated (in a good way) story; figure out which woman is speaking.


I know of someone who is not going to try Cardinal’s radio plays because she doesn’t trust her mobile-phone skills. This is just too fun-filled a play — and experience — for people to have that mindset before they try it. Cardinal is coming up with scads of pandemic-friendly entertainment ideas for us, and this company’s creativity is pouring through our community.


In fact, I mentioned these walkabouts to a friend in New York, and now he management at Caumsett State Park on Long Island, the old 1750-acre Marshall Field III property on Lloyd Neck, is considering the format for their fundraiser.


I don’t often use earbuds, and I heard Goodson’s words just fine on my speaker setting. The Cardinal team has honed the technology, making it easy and smooth. The plot may be frightening, but the technology is not.


In our current era, where sitting is the new smoking and crowds are to be avoided, these walkabouts, really, are perfect.