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REVIEW: Our Country's Good at Augustana College

Need a last minute present idea for Mothers’ Day? Why not treat Mom to some of your time and take her with you to Augustana College’s current production of Our Country’s Good?

On Wednesday evening Director Jeff Coussens allowed me to sit in on the dress rehearsal of this show so that I could get the word out about this provocative student production. As stated in the program notes:

“Our Country’s Good”, written in 1988 by Timberlake Wertenbaker is an adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s 1987 novel, “The Playmaker.”  It follows [Britain’s] First Fleet as they as they land in Australia and establish the first penal colony there in New South Wales…As Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark attempts to put on a play as a form of rehabilitation for the convicts…This play is especially relevant today as we see U.S. incarceration rates rising…It only seems fitting to stage a play that discusses the ways in which power can corrupt the humanity of those in charge…”

This play calls into question whether prison is merely for punishment or for rehabilitation of those incarcerated. Lt. Clark struggles for months to bring the play he has chosen to the boards. He encounters resistance from both his colleagues and the prisoners and despite those obstacles he perseveres to bring the production to fruition.

I have often credited Augustana’s theatre department with training some of the most incredible talent to grace the Quad Cities theatre scene and these young performers totally deserve your support. That being said and taking into consideration that this was a rehearsal, I have to say all but one these young performers need to learn to project. I could not hear most of the entire first act. Director Coussens must have agreed with me. With only a couple of exceptions, the cast came out after the intermission with renewed energy and increased volume in the second act.

This play was written with the idea of doubling in mind. All but one actor portrayed multiple roles and their costume changes for their characters mostly occur onstage. This appeared to bog down the timing just a bit; this show ran well over 2 hours. Regardless, this show is well worth taking in.

The stand out performer for me was Sora Richter who played the despicable Major Robbie Ross and the sensitive convict forced into acting as an executioner, Ketch Freeman. Her projection was great throughout, she portrayed two very diverse characters exceptionally well and really nailed an Irish accent.

Our Country’s Good opened at the Brunner Theatre’s main stage on Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 12 at 1:30 p.m.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.