Let’s Review! General has fun fighting foibles in ‘Faded Glory’ at North Coast Repertory Theatre
Tales from the Civil War are rarely amusing, however, playwright Tim Burns’ “Faded Glory” finds huge hilarity and humor in retelling the story of one colorful old soldier — General Daniel Sickles. The delightful drama, based on the life of a long-forgotten figure has its world premiere on the North Coast Repertory stage through June 22.
The curtain rises on stacks of old papers and a bright Civil War uniform, which fill the home of the retired general, a military hero who’s had his Congressional Medal of Honor rescinded.
What did Sickles do to have that happen?
Maybe what he didn’t do is easier to answer.
As he prepares to have an official portrait painted, the audience learns he’s been quite the scoundrel in his lifetime — a murderer, philanderer, Congressman, embezzler, and lover of Queen Isabella of Spain … among other things.
Actor Andrew Barnicle is stunning as Sickles, who is stuck in a wheelchair because his leg was shot off in the Battle of Gettysburg. He’s a tough old curmudgeon who spends a lot of time hollering at this caregiver/confidant, Eleanor (Shana Wride).
Sickles whines about his inabilities, and the injustices he believes he’s suffered, only to become even more upset when his romantic gestures to Eleanor always end up rebuffed.
Wride is priceless as Eleanor. She is not only a boxing-ring match for Sickles’ verbal abuses, but his physical advances as well. Wride infuses Eleanor’s rich dialogue with just the right amount of humor and sarcasm, drawing laughter from the audience at most every line.
Theater always loves a few drunks, so Ben Cole (as Frank Butler) and Bruce Turk (as actor John Barrymore) are clearly assets when they sneak through Sickles’ bedroom window and fall face-first on the floor. Sickles wakes to see his old friends, and begins a long conversation with Barrymore about his acting career. The thespian flounders all over the room looking for more liquor and making disparaging comments about his craft. When he finds a most unusual object that just might contain a few drops of alcohol, we see to what lows his lushness has sunk. Yet, Turk is a blast as Barrymore.
Things only intensify when Sickles’ estranged wife Condesa (the handmaid of his former lover, Queen Isabella of Spain) shows up after 30-some years and demands they re-unite. Frances Anita Rivera plays both the Queen and Contessa — each women holding a pivotal secret that centers on Sickle.
NCRT’s Artistic Director David Ellenstein is a pro at picking the productions just right for his theater, and he’s done a great job in directing this one with all its fussing and frivolity.
Burn’s dialogue is masterful in advancing the story and revealing the characters. “Faded Glory” should not be missed and ought to be Broadway-bound, according to the opening night audience.
If you go: “Faded Glory” plays matinees, evenings through June 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets: $37-$54 at (858) 481-1055 and www.northcoastrep.org
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