Review: "Book of Days" tells thrilling story while critiquing small town life

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The Newtonite

Juniors Natalie Tereschenko and Nick Hansell play Ruth Hoch and James Bates, respectively, in "Book of Days." Photo by Matt Davis-Morin. Like the Newtonite on Facebook for more photos.
Juniors Natalie Tereschenko and Nick Hansell play Ruth Hoch and James Bates, respectively, in “Book of Days.” Photo by Matt Davis-Morin. Like the Newtonite on Facebook for more photos.

by Jessica Tharaud

“Book of Days” tells the thrilling story of a woman who refuses to believe that the mysterious death of her boss was accidental, and fights her small town to search for the truth.

The play, written by Lanford Wilson, goes up Thursday through Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the little theatre. Due to the snow, there will be no performance tonight and no additional performance, but tickets bought for tonight will be honored for the other three performance times.

Directed by world language teacher Daniel Fabrizio, the play explores the events surrounding the mysterious death of a cheese factory owner named Walt Bates, played by freshman Andrew Hastings.

Walt dies in a duck hunting accident involving his shotgun, according to his employee and hunting partner Earl Hill, played by junior Dominic Bosco. Bosco uses an authentic accent that sets the tone for his character’s role in the play.

The death deeply affects Walt’s devoted wife Sharon, played by senior Bethany Lehman, and adulterous son James, played by junior Nick Hansell. Sharon cannot move on after Walt’s death. Meanwhile, James’ marriage falls apart after his wife, LouAnn, played by senior Mackenzie Dreese, learns that he cheated on her with a beautician, who is now pregnant with his child.

After his former glory days as a high school basketball star, James has never lived up to his parents’ expectations. He becomes a lawyer after several tries to pass the Bar Examination, and aspires to run for Congress. Hansell truly embodies the role, portraying a number of personality traits: sleazy when Ruth accuses him of cheating, genuinely angry at the direction the cheese factory is going, and bashful when apologizing to LouAnn. Even Hansell’s slight facial expressions support the emotions of the character he plays.

Ruth Hoch, played by junior Natalie Tereshchenko, works as a bookkeeper at the cheese factory and seems very saddened at her boss’ death. But she finds many inaccuracies in Earl’s account of Walt’s death, and believes that he is not telling the truth. Tereshchenko shows her impressive acting ability as a woman who sets out to do what she feels is right, changing her life and her town in the process.

At the beginning of the play, Ruth lands the role of Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw’s play “St. Joan.” As the events transpire, more and more parallels are drawn between the two as Ruth’s relationships with the other townspeople worsen and she becomes invested in solving the mystery of Walt’s death.

Ruth first begins to suspect that Earl killed Walt when she examines the gun that supposedly went off and discovers there was no gunpowder smell on it, leading her to the conclusion that the gun never went off. Then, Ruth talks with Sharon and learns that Walt never drank coffee, which contradicts Earl’s story that Walt had made coffee before they went out hunting.

As Ruth becomes more and more certain that Earl murdered Walt, she confides in many townspeople. They rebuff her and call her crazy, speaking to a larger theme about the close-mindedness of small town life. Despite the evidence that Ruth provides to Sheriff Conroy Atkins, played by sophomore Aaron Schwartz, he refuses to believe that a murder could have been committed.

Reverend Bobby Grove, played by freshman Josh Shub-Seltzer, shows where his loyalties lie when Ruth tells him that she thinks Walt was murdered, and he refuses to help her. When Ruth tries to tell Grove’s church congregation that the Reverend refuses to help her, LouAnn collapses and shrieks realistically. The Reverend calmly coaxes the spirit out of her, solidifying the townspeople’s negative view of Ruth.

After this scene, everything starts to go downhill for Ruth and her husband Len, played by junior Nico Krauss. Ruth is pressured to stop pursuing murder charges against Earl as the town turns against her, and she performs as Joan onstage. She disregards her previous words and believes that she is Joan of Arc, trying her best to change the inevitable verdict of “St. Joan.”

The action intensifies and the incredible skill of the actors becomes clear as the play draws to a close. Ruth confronts the Reverend once again, and takes one of her lines from “St. Joan” to use against him. “Your counsel is of the devil,” Ruth accuses. “And mine is of God.”

Tickets are $7 and are sold at all lunches and on Theatre Ink’s website.