Floyd Collins

Floyd Collins
a kate west review
music & lyrics by Adam Guettel, book & additional lyrics by Tina Landau
directed by Richard Israel
at the West Coast Ensemble, 522 N. La
Brea (between Melrose and Beverly),
Hollywood, CA, 90036
running February 11 -
April 3, 2005; contact 323/525-0022 or visit www.wcensemble.org

"Floyd Collins" is a new musical based on the true story of Floyd Collins, allegedly the best caver in America, who died in 1925, after being trapped and immobile in a cave for 17 days. Exploring alone, and attempting to find a tunnel linking Kentucky's Sand Cave to Mammoth, his leg caught under a rock and he was permanently wedged in. Despite repeated attempts to extricate him and a carnival of onlookers and nationwide interest, he succumbed to the elements and died.

Bryce Ryness plays the doomed Floyd in the West Coast Ensemble's recent production. His strong portrayal does justice to the memory of the Kentuckian caver. Roger Befeler plays his brother Homer, in this particular evening, understudying Stef Tovar. Dana Reynolds is Nellie, sister to the close brothers and David Kaufman plays Skeets Miller, the reporter who visited Floyd daily and tried to keep up his spirits. All the actors turn in good performances and the company is, as usual, professional and competent. The overall production is rather limited, however. A bit too long, it merely tells the tale of Floyd Collins, without offering any significant insight.

Adam Guettel's music is fine, at times even catchy, especially the fun routine "Is That Remarkable", an old-time jazzy and perky ensemble-rousing number. "Carnival" is fun as well, incorporating all cast members. "The Ballad of Floyd Collins" is a constant theme throughout, also contributing to the length of the show. Richard Israel's directing and Cate Caplin's choreography really shine in these types of numbers. The ensemble works together quite well and brings to life what it must be like to twist through narrow crevices. Adding to this illusion is Evan A. Bartoletti's set consisting of mere wooden planks, which are meant to look like a dark cave. The wood is a bit distracting at first; however one soon realizes it is supposed to convey stalactites and stalagmites.

Tina Landau's story of Floyd Collins is moving, yet fairly predictable. A true story, it relates the events accurately, delving into supposition when Floyd is dying and hallucinating at the end. Again, however, it merely tells the tale, in spite of the talent and ultimate sincerity of the cast and producers. It is worth noting, by the way, that a trip to the West Coast Ensemble is always worth it, especially now that they are moving. So it is your last chance to catch them in their present location and to wish them good luck wherever they end up. Donations for the move are always welcome, of course.

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