'Reunion' offers varied picture of post-Civil War life

Lawrence Community Theatre is closing out its season with a production that is different from its usual fare of Broadway musicals, dramas and farces.

"Reunion" is a 2 1/2-hour multimedia musical revue that uses period songs and costumes, storytelling and projections of historic photos to tell the epic saga of the Civil War. And while the vignette structure of Jack Kyrieleison's play takes a bit of getting used to, by the middle of Act I the path of the narrative is clearly established and easy for audience members to follow.

The play's story line: It's 25 years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and an eight-member theater troupe that is down on its luck will attempt to win the favor of its audience by telling the story of the Civil War in abridged form.

The actors act out real-life stories documented in letters, newspapers and other accounts or serve as narrators to further along the action. The stories from the battlefields and the nation's capital are horrific as well as humorous and patriotic as well as shameful. Kyrieleison brilliantly dispels the still-clung-to myth that all Union supporters also backed the abolition of slavery.

Directed by Mary Doveton, the cast does an admirable job of quickly moving from one scene to the next. Charles Whitman is perfectly cast as the boisterous Harry Hawk, the leader of the acting troupe who plays ego-centric Gen. George McClellan. Philip Denton, who has a striking singing voice, tugs at the heart with his portrayal of a young soldier who is wounded in battle and suffers through the loss of a leg as a nurse (Annette Cook) sings "Beautiful Dreamer." Granvile O'Neal, who plays a black soldier, delivers an inspired rendition of "Steal Away."

"Reunion" continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through June 23 at the theater, 1501 N.H.

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