The Bridges of Madison County
Theatre West End
Based on a novel by Robert James Waller
Book by Marsha Norman
Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Derick Critzer
Starring Janine Klein, Robb Ross, Michael Colavolpe and Sara Jones
When Des Moines is the big city, you know you’re in rural America. That’s where lonely Francesca (Klein) lives with her hubby Bud (Colavolpe) and their two teen age kids Micheal (Michael Thibodeau) and Carolyn (Trisha Jane Wiles). Carolynn raises a steer that has a shot at “Best Steer in America.” While this isn’t the Super Bowl, it’s a decent accomplishment for a 4-H kid and dad takes her and Michael to Indianapolis to go for the medal. This leaves Francesca alone and isolated, and when National Geographic photographer Robert (Ross) stops in for directions, things get out of hand. And in a place like rural Iowa, the neighbors are sure to notice. But can everyone keep this gossip down on the farm?
I’m not a big romance fan but this show grabbed me. Klein’s lonely house wife hummed with pathos and isolation while Rosses also felt alone he did his best to stay clear of trouble, until he didn’t. There’s an element of conscience sinning here, but its more than overwhelmed by the fluidity of the building relation Bud suspects but can’t prove. He’s angry, but it’s not clear he wants to prove anything as he realizes the stress of loneliness and routine buries Francesca’s romantic and social sides. Ross also maintains neutral moral stance; he understands the risks of an outsider in a small-town illicit action; but he, too is lonely and desolate.
There’s a solid comic performance from Sara Jones as neighbor Marge, complete with a binocular and a need to know. The music feels lush and well thought out, but there’s no a real defining melody that will make you thinks: “This is Iowa’s theme song.” But I did like “Before and After You” and the 6-piece band sat upstage clouded in dark, with only the guitarist looking a little bored. Theater West End is finding its groove; there were fewer glitches then when they opened, and they are offering several season child friendly shows for the holidays. But I’ll say this: they got a tear out of my eye, no simple task.