By Rebecca Godwin, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 4, 2013
While on vacation with my family this summer, we happened upon a local theater production and, being the theater fanatic that I am, I convinced my parents to see the show. Thus began both my worst and best night ever at the theater.
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The show, titled “The Lost Colony,” has been running for years, and details, through creative license, the very unclear fate of the Roanoke settlers, performed in an outdoor amphitheater. Reviews online were favorable and locals said the show was worth the price of the tickets.
Within two minutes of the start of the production though, those hopes were all but shattered. As dozens of settlers walked onto the stage, singing what I can only describe as a Gregorian chant interspersed nicely with moments of high-pitched shrieking, I knew this was going to be a rough night.
After the settlers finally stopped moaning, a narrator (picture a televangelist wearing a judge’s robe) entered and began to summarize … something. I say something because he wasn’t really saying anything of real value. There were a lot of words, tons of religious symbolism, plenty of projecting and dramatic hand flourishes, but not a whole lot of exposition.
I told my mom to give it a few minutes, as the show couldn’t truly be this bad; it had won a Tony Award (at least according to the program anyway), and the audience members who had reviewed the show before us could not have been so blind to the low level of quality they were witnessing.
But when the “Native Americans” ran onstage, even I couldn’t keep up the charade that the show would get better. I was more than a little confused when the Native Americans weren’t Native Americans at all, but rather a large group of Caucasian men and women painted the most unconvincing shade of copper brown I’ve ever seen, led by a very large, fit African-American man.
The racial and cultural inaccuracies were simply astounding, and they only grew more erroneous when the group began its traditional tribe dance. Now, I’m not an expert on Native American culture, but I’m fairly certain that Native Americans weren’t doing very many arabesques and jetés.
At this point in the show, I had two options. I could sulk over the fact that it was terrible and leave having had a very unfortunate experience at the theater, or I could accept the show for its awfulness and take it in all of its cheesy, corny and historically incorrect glory. I chose the latter, figuring what the hell — I might as well have a good time.
The show didn’t disappoint: The remaining two hours were filled with undecipherable English accents, sword fights that were so slowed down you could clearly see fake blades being shoved under armpits rather than through chests and gunfire that was repeatedly and obviously shot straight into the air while still managing to “kill” various actors.
But the best moment came near the end of the intermission and had very little to do with what was happening onstage. A couple with an elderly woman had, for one reason or another, decided to return the woman to her wheelchair to watch the remainder of the performance. Just as they positioned her in the wheelchair, the lights in the theater went out again. After 30 seconds, a loud crash off to my left rang out, and I turned to discover that the gentleman hadn’t wanted to wait for the stage lights but had instead rolled the elderly woman into four metal folding chairs.
The commotion settled down and the actors entered the stage to begin the second act. One of the settlers yelled a greeting to a fellow actor onstage, and the old woman, apparently unfazed by her crash, yelled, “Hello!” right back. The audience fell silent and I had to bite down on my hand to stop from erupting in peals of laughter during a scene that included the death of several settlers.
While the old woman turned out to be the highlight of the production, my parents and I left having had a pretty good time.