Hub Theatre Co. Closes Season Strong With ‘Sand Mountain’ (4 Stars)

Sand Mountain – Written by Romulus Linney; Directed by Daniel Borque. Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston, December 13-21 at the First Church In Boston, 66 Marlborough St., Boston (run concluded).

On Saturday, December 21st, Hub Theater Company of Boston closed its debut season with a much too short a run of a lovely production of Sand Mountain, a set of two one-act plays by Romulus Linney. The production took place in the First Church in Boston, where the small performance space was packed as Julia Alvarez greeted the audience by beautifully playing a variety of traditional and original compositions on a fiddle from her corner on the right of the stage. The added a wonderful touch, as she played both prior to the performance, during the intermission, and during the performance.

Director Daniel Borque chose two very different one-act plays by Linney, which were tied together by a common thread of where they took place: in the area of Sand Mountain. The first one, ‘Sand Mountain Matchmaking’, was quite spectacular – witty, clever, with pronounced well-written characters, a Southern-flavored exploration of dating in pre-dating websites era. The play focused on how a Lizzy Bennet-like young widow (played magnificently by Lauren Elias) managed to put in their proper place a trio of inappropriate, albeit delightfully amusing suitors – a lusty idiot, an old idiot and a religious idiot – until she was able to find a man to fit both her wit and her temperament. How did she do that? By taking the advice of a sage old woman (played by Ann Carpenter), who prompted her to, shall we say, inform the suitors of a particular rule of thumb (no pun intended) – telling them that ‘a man’s horn is three times the size of his nose” and then observing their reactions. And oh, did those reactions ring true!

The second play, ‘Why the Lord Came to Sand Mountain’, felt much weaker in comparison, and the audience was much less engaged throughout. In this play, the Lord (Robert Orzalli) and St. Peter (Yoni Bronstein) spend an evening with a poor penniless family, drinking whiskey and telling obscene stories until the Lord finally asks the family to tell a particular story of how a young Jesus hurt his father Joseph. There were some excellent moments in this play – for instance, how often does one see the Lord drinking whiskey with, well, anyone, as if it is the most natural thing to do? The versatility of the actors’ performances was magnificent, as they changed gears between the first and the second acts – particularly Robert Orzalli and Yoni Bronstein (the religious and the lusty suitors from the first act) were splendid, as was Lauren Elias, who transformed completely from being a witty Austen-esque young woman to a simple and crude but good-natured woman who told obscene stories to the Lord together with her husband. The second play was just a tad long, however, and while exploring interesting ideas, such as a notion that even the Lord could need closure about something he did as a child, it was a bit too unfocused in its message (so is the play about closure? About trusting that the Lord knows where to go even if you don’t, as he pushed St. Peter to go visit this couple despite Peter’s objections? About being rewarded for kindness to strangers? He did reward them with gifts after his departure?), and so it left much less of an impression compared to the first segment of the production.

Nevertheless, the production as a whole was extremely enjoyable, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing more as the Hub Theater Company moves into its second season. For more info about Hub Theater Company of Boston, go to: