by Collin McConnell · August 20, 2015
Tyler Caffall and Lindsey Trout | Ross Thomas
There is a great deal of nostalgic dust kicking about the hills of Chop Your Own Wood. Not a broad nostalgia, not a nostalgia of collective sighs or laughs between so broad a group - it is a private nostalgia, an intimate nostalgia. But that nostalgic dust is kicking about on rich hills seething with uncertainty, passion, and loss... and, eventually, the dust must settle.
Lydia and Daniel have gathered at the spot they come to every year to watch the meteor shower. They are married, but it takes a bit to fully understand their relationship. They only come to this spot once a year, but their whole history - and, possibly, future - is here. They keep laughing, but there always seems to be something just beyond it...
A playful magnetism pulls and pushes Lydia and Daniel: all at once, they can't be close enough together or far enough apart, never quite connecting, but never quite missing - the trappings of a dangerous relationship. A pleasant magic hangs over everything - the joyful magic of remembering... and forgetting.
And there's a missing cat. One that Daniel is intent on finding, and Lydia is eager to forget.
Lindsey Trout Hughes as Lydia and Tyler Caffall as Daniel create a great richness in their character's relationship, sharing a history that is all at once familiar yet completely unique to them. A smile or a Clint Eastwood quote means a millions things, something we the audience can intrinsically feel but only begin to understand the depths of. Caffall is deserving of exceptional praise for his ease, his genuine eagerness, and for allowing his heartsickness to never wander into caricature - it is a deep, adult longing. Director Alexandra Kuechler Caffall makes much of the magic of the piece, maneuvering a maze of tents that, while the play takes place only over one night, in one location, creates a tapestry of environments unique (and fitting) for every moment. The magic is furthered by Natalie Robin's lighting (finding all the colors of a night in the woods - some natural, some perhaps something else) and the strange yet joyous sound design (uncredited) that throws us deep into Lydia and Daniel's inside jokes and past.
The past. That nostalgic dust covering everything here. Perhaps the most magical thing about the play is that this intimate nostalgia isn't ostracizing - it is so well constructed (written with great clarity, passion, and wit by Hughes), so specific, that rather than feeling like an outsider, it was more an invitation to dig around in my own memories and feelings. I watched the story of Lydia and Daniel's relationship unfold and unravel as I remembered first dates and kisses, poor decisions and explosive break ups. As they found humor among destruction, so did I, and my memories mixed around with theirs, creating a closeness that so much theater can only hope to achieve. And yet, as we reached the harrowing conclusion, I found myself happy to not be them, to not be close to them - it welcomed me in, yet allowed me to pull away.
Perhaps Chop Your Own Wood is all about that push and pull - of a mystery, of a place, of a love, of a time... Of humor among darkness, tragedy within love. And here, in Bonneville Theater Company's inaugural production, it is wonderfully executed, always pushing while continuing to pull - never too close or far - but never letting go.