Have you ever sat down and talked with someone elderly? The ones that have had a long life and have experienced many different things? They will always have a story and I’m sure they’d be more than willing to tell it to you as long as you’re willing to sit around and listen. That’s the background of “Come Hell and High Water”. It is the story of an old man that is released from prison after having spent decades inside. What happened? Why was he in jail? These are the questions the audience has on their mind as he rolls out onto the stage in a wheelchair. The backdrop for this scene is a town, rusted over and worn down. Characters come to and fro, until a nurse comes up to the old man and asks him about his life story. And so the journey begins; the narrative gets transported to the past and the journey to discovering the man’s past life begins.
A spotlight shines down upon the convict’s head. The focus of the play is drawn from the characters that moves around the stage onto the sole character standing in the light, directing the audience’s focus once again. The lighting of the play does a good job directing the flow of the story. From the scene where the lights dim and a projection of the trees is displayed to the final act when the only light found is the flooding rain that drops down upon the characters. The only complaint I would have is how most of the stage is usually illuminated by the lights. So much of the stage is shown that it becomes hard to just focus in upon the characters the story wants the audience to focus on. However, it is not all bad, as when the chorus starts up, the illumination helps the chorus to get some much needed attention. The job of the chorus isn’t a huge one, but that’s not to say that they’re unimportant. Other than the sound of the water, they provide a soothing sound of opera. The singers enhance the audio track of the performance with their voices as their tools.
The stage of the play changes very little, even though the story crosses the borders of both time and distance. As the production progresses, the actors bring props onto the stage to show the movement of the main character as he travels down the “old man”, a phrase that is repeated through the play. Who or what exactly is this old man? It is the river, a symbol of water, which in turn is a symbol of power throughout this play. The sound of water echos across the entirety of the play, from the title of the play to the final scene of the story.
The story is narrated by the old man, but that’s not the only narrator available. The old man and his younger counterpart are the main focuses of the production, as it is their story that is being told. The perspective of the play, alternates between first and third person, the third person being the younger version of the convict, while the older version provides for the first person. The style used here is fantastic as it provides a look not only through a first person perspective, but also shows the inner thoughts of the main character through the third person thoughts of the old man. To top it all off, there is also narration by the warden, providing a third perspective, an outside the box look at the whole story.
The story plays out like Tom Sawyer to me. It’s a journey of self discovery and evolution. It’s an adventure that takes place as the convict travels down the river towards whatever his future may hold for him. However, unlike the end of Tom Sawyer, our narrator isn’t lucky. As can be surmised at the beginning of the play, the convict ends up in jail and that’s exactly what happens at the end of this journey down the “old man”. Though he learns stuff on his journey and he matures as the story progresses, in the end he still hasn’t learned enough and ends up in jail. And for what? The simple act of being a good person. But the narrator is able to grow through the life he lead before being forced into the jail. Even if in the end his life’s journey was cut short, he still became a better person because of it.
“Come Hell and High Water” was a calming show full of humor. The story was very linear and easy to predict, because the conclusion was shown at the beginning of the play, however, that is not to say it was not worth a watch. I didn’t know what to except when I saw it, but I can say it was quite an enjoyable performance. One of the audience members, Nadeesha, told me “It was really good. It wasn’t not what I expected. I came for my Drama class for credit, but it was good and very informative.” I cannot say I became a better person after watching the show, but I can say that it was and intriguing look at the power of water and with the new event that developed in Japan, it also becomes a reinforcement of just how small we are.
*This is a review for “Come Hell And High Water” which ended on March 13th. Our pre-event story was here http://www.davislifemagazine.com/2011/03/light-shower-heavy-torrent/.