‘Echoes of the War’ is relevant to audiences today

By Lorraine Spencer

Supporting characters struggle with difficult accents.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The New Castle Playhouse took a chance producing a little known play, “Echoes of the War,” and it paid off.

Written by J. M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan,” “Echoes of the War” is actually two short plays about families dealing with World War I in England. Though the plays take place in a different country nearly a century ago, director Scott A. Mackenzie delivers a relevant, touching story about family and loss in a time of war.

The first play, “The Old Lady Shows Her Medals,” centers on a lonely woman, Mrs. Dowey, who lives in London. Though she is surrounded by evidence of the war, she feels no connection because she has no family. When she reads about a Pvt. Kenneth Dowey of the renowned Black Watch, she claims him as her own. Humorous and touching scenes ensue when they meet by chance.

The second play, “The New Word,” is about the last night a young man spends with his family before going off to war. He and his father have an awkward conversation in which they realize they are more alike than they suspected. Sadly, just when they begin to understand each other, Roger must go to war, maybe to never come back.

Mark Stinson portrays Roger with both the careless humor of a teenager and the quiet weight of a soldier. As Mr. Torrance, Jacque King also shows the duality of his character: both a loving, anxious father and the stern, distant figure that was expected by society. The scene between the two is full of tension, discomfort and grief, and feels heavy and real. Helen-Marie Gould adds a touching and amusing performance as Mrs. Torrance, while Beth Thomas is cute and energetic as little sister Emma.

Paula R. Ferguson plays a delightful Mrs. Dowey, kind and charming, but alone and sad. David Lynch gives her “son” a gruff exterior and sweet interior. Both portray their characters with sincerity and humor, along with Scottish accents.

When doing plays such as these — old period pieces — there is a concern that the audience may not fully understand the performance. The play is very British, full of slang and pronunciations that a modern American audience is not familiar with. To help, the director provides a glossary to each audience member. But, the dialogue is still hard to follow. Similarly, the father and son make vague references to British society that don’t really translate today.

Also, while the main characters are fairly constant and clear in their accents, the supporting characters struggle with theirs. Mrs. Dowey’s friends are almost impossible to understand as they attempt Cockney accents. While these problems may hinder the audience’s understanding of each line, the overall tone and message of the play remains clear.

Although they were written 90 years ago, the plays are still relevant. Sweet and poignant, their messages of family and loss are applicable today. Regardless of when and where, war takes lives and hurts families. “Echoes of the War” truly does echo the feelings and fears of the families of soldiers today.

X“Echoes of the War” continues June 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and June 8, 15 and 22 at 2 p.m.

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