Civil War play debuts to full house at Roberson

Reviewed by Ralph Hall

Since Binghamton was established in the early part of the 19th Century, its residents have contributed in many ways to most world events including the American Civil War. Laura Cunningham’s new play, Apron Strings, chronicles the lives of six of those citizens returning from this war. Produced by Terry McDonald, Executive Director of the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, and directed by Judy McMahon, Apron Strings had its premiere performance Thursday (Feb. 23) in the newly renovated ballroom of the Roberson Mansion.

At the end of the war, the veterans share an Erie Line freight car moving towards Binghamton. After nine years, they have much to say about their past and current lives. The playwright constructed her play by coupling the historical events of the period with emotions of the characters, touching on many diverse subjects. She included a couple of surprise twists and many humorous lines producing a theater piece much enjoyed by the full-house audience.

The characters are nearly equal in their storytelling, but the actors’ individual character developments differed significantly. Chris Nickerson, a seasoned performer of local venues, delivered a believable arrogant, upper-class, returning wounded officer. Austin Brocious, the company drummer, turned in a particularly fine performance. Tad Saraceno, who is challenged with creating two characters, did an excellent job with the second character. Mocca Shabaz sang the musical pieces very well. Kate Murray played a distraught mother whose character brought closure to the play. The cast also included Shane Thorn and Daniel Pacalis, who contributed significantly to this piece. The set design was excellent.

Premieres of new works by new playwrights must always be encouraged. The Binghamton community has a history of producing successful writers. It is a very demanding craft. Some of America’s best playwrights were still deeply engaged in mastering their craft at the time of their death. To master managing the English/American language so as to produce new thoughts and new understanding while entertaining and relating to an audience is a rare skill. Is Apron Strings ready for the league of great American plays? Probably not, but it is entertaining, and, in this case, the play is not the thing. It is the author who deserves the attention and support for the possibilities of the future.

Roberson’s current Civil War exhibit  led to the production of Apron StringsIt was good to see so many young students attending this opening.

According to the Broome County Arts Council’s weekly e-newsletter, the remaining performances at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday (Feb. 24 and 25) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 26), are sold out. To find out about last-minute availability of tickets, call 772-0660.

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