A play by local author Bob Perry, based on his novel, staged its world premiere last week at Jewel Box Theatre.
“Broken Statue” tells the compelling true story of the rise and fall of the Marland family, beginning in 1911, when down-on-his-luck former millionaire E.W. Marland comes from Pennsylvania to Ponca City, looking for oil. Eventually, he would control 10 percent of the world’s oil production; marry his adopted daughter, Lydie; and serve in Congress and as governor of Oklahoma.
Director Chuck Tweed was right to pursue this script and has assembled a great ensemble cast. Greyson Giese stands out in a natural turn as young Charlie. He and Kayin Williamson as young Walt hold their own against the adults. Chelsea Yeager also makes a strong impression in her few short scenes as young Lydie.
Jeff Perkins starts out strong in the lead role of E.W. Marland, conveying a determined optimism with a strong vocal delivery. Unfortunately, as “Statue” progressed, Perkins stumbled over some lines, undermining his attempts to portray all aspects of this complex man. However, he went out on a high note in a heartbreaking scene at the end of Marland’s life.
Katie Lloyd is nothing short of radiant in her dynamic portrayal of the adult Lydie, doing great work opposite the male leads. Larry Harris is deliciously vile as Marland’s rival, the morally compromised Daniel Craigan. Michel Cross carries herself with class and intelligence as Marland’s first wife.
Vicki Wilcox and Donna Mackie steal the show as the fictional chorus of seemingly immortal old ladies who playfully deliver exposition throughout in the form of gossip.
Paul Smith is instantly likable as Old Charlie, exuding warmth and humor as an ideal-grandfather figure. Because he’s the narrator, the structure of the play dictates he make a lot of brief entrances and exits, but he acquits himself well, save for a few scenes.
A black-box approach might have been more appealing than Richard Howells’ minimal set, especially with such a terrific cast and costumes by Mimi Lynch that are better than average for Jewel Box. The lighting is used to good effect to indicate location changes. More blackouts early on would have helped to better delineate the passage of time.
“Broken Statue” is one of the best works by a local author I’ve seen staged at Jewel Box over the last few years. Perry’s research for his novel benefits the play greatly. However, at just over two hours, it feels a little longer than it should. Less time with E.W.’s early years and, as much as it pains me to say, maybe fewer (or shorter) scenes with the gossips might aid pacing.
Still, “Broken Statue” is surprising in many ways, presenting a fascinating piece of Oklahoma history. Like our own “Gone with the Wind,” it’s truly a sweeping epic for the plains.