CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This weekend, the Alban Arts Center presents "The Princess of Rome, Ohio," written by Jonathan Joy. Although it is set in Ohio, the play has a distinctly West Virginia feel since three of the major characters are transplants from Logan County.
The play is funny, but it is not making fun, as so often West Virginia's working class seems to be caricatured. The cast and the script give these characters a very real and friendly feel.
They do have quirky moments and fit into some of the stereotypes people think of as "hillbilly" -- for instance, the yard is junked with old tires and the front porch where the entire performance takes place is in a state of disrepair -- but instead of being offensive, it just feels real.
Zoe Scarborough gives a phenomenal performance as 14-year-old Hattie. The interaction between Hattie and her mother, Lulu (Megan Mace), as they struggle to deal with their personal lives and their relationship with each other is at times, intense, realistic, sad, charming and funny.
In the spirit of William Faulkner or Eudora Welty, the characters' personal lives are deeply entwined and slightly off kilter.
The show opens with Alma (Lisa Gandee), a friend of the family, in a state of panic. Although she left her husband, while she was gone, he left with their trailer. It is this kind of scenario, and Scarborough plays it well, that is both funny and sad while being strangely relatable.
You leave the theater feeling like you kind of nosily spent an hour and a half peering into the inner-workings of your neighbor's lives.
You feel yourself sympathize deeply with Lulu as her husband, Bud (Barry Daily), who she thought she might have accidentally murdered, shows up on her porch steps with flowers, screaming her name. It feels real; it could happen to someone you know.
Since there are no set changes, this play relies heavily on the chemistry and interaction of the cast. It works. Really well. They are tangible and easy to empathize with.
There are a few spots where the dialogue seems to drag and there is no visible interaction taking place on stage, just characters lost in their own thought. But is that not the way real life works? Conversation ebbs and flows.
Overall, this is an excellent play with a wonderful cast of interesting, realistic characters. I recommend it highly.
I will note, however, there is extensive use of foul language, some mild violence and a great deal of alcohol consumption, so it is not for the easily offended or small children.
"The Princess of Rome, Ohio" runs Friday through Sunday and July 5-7 at The Alban Arts Center, 65 Olde Main St., St. Albans. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.
Go see it; you will not be disappointed.Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopk...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.