Hyde Park Theatre's The Quarry

Greg Pierce's play is rough and has sharp edges, but in the end there is heart that is worth discovering

Chase Brewer and Jess Hughes
Chase Brewer and Jess Hughes (Photo by Bret Brookshire)

The hills of Vermont are not a place that's gotten lots of attention from American playwrights. Perhaps that's because, like Jean (Katherine Catmull), the center of The Quarry, it's a place where a lot of people would rather be left alone.

In the play by Greg Pierce at Hyde Park Theatre, Jean lives by herself in a house teetering on the edge of a marble quarry. She and her late husband Sammy (Ken Webster, who also directs) built the house themselves. They raised a daughter, Clara (Jess Hughes), together against the around-the-clock sounds of the quarry: the dynamite, the destruction, the crashing of rock on rock. It was a difficult existence for Sammy and Clara, but Jean claims to have loved it.

Now that Sammy is gone, Jean has decided that she would like to end her own life. She informs the audience in her prickly way that this isn't out of desperation or grief. It's because her story has played out, as she sees it. Only, shortly before she can carry out her plans, the quarry goes mysteriously silent.

Curiosity piqued in spite of herself, Jean sticks around to see what's happening. Then, also in spite of herself, she finds herself drawn back into the drama of life as it's lived by the people of her community, including the mayor's son (Chase Brewer) and his girlfriend (also played by Jess Hughes), who goes missing in the quarry one night during a birthday prank gone wrong.

The narrative of the play is stretched taut along lines of opposing tensions: Jean's needs vs. her family's, silence vs. noise, community vs. solitude, rationality vs. the unexplained. The pull between life and death jerks Jean back and forth during the three weeks that the story takes place – and pretty violently for a woman who wants to stay still. Out of all of these oppositions, this play that takes place next to a rock quarry winds up being about the softening of a woman as she attempts, sometimes poorly, to re-engage with life.

The play rides on the strengths of the actors in this cast, especially that of Catmull. While this performance is not as fluid as Catmull often shows herself to be, she brings to it the necessary bite without letting the character's hidden tenderness get lost. The other three actors are also well-cast in their roles. In fact, auditioning actors should note that The Quarry is a great source for monologues for actors of all ages; it shows off each performer's talents in turn.

In the end, The Quarry is like Jean herself. It's sharp, and it's got some rough edges to the story, but in the end there is heart that is worth discovering.

The Quarry

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 512/479-7529
Through Oct. 24
Running time: 1 hr., 20 min.

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Hyde Park Theatre, Greg Pierce, Ken Webster, Katherine Catmull, Jess Hughes, Chase Brewer

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