Theater review: ‘Bop And Evey’ at HART

FAMILY DYNAMICS: Erin McCarson, left, as Evelyn, reunites with her brother Rob, played by David Yeates, right, over Christmas. Unresolved emotional issues flare between them in the international debut of the Irish play 'Bop and Evey.' Photo by John Highsmith

The Feichter Studio at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre has been an actor-driven space since its inception. Studio shows are typically more experimental, edgier and often quirkier fare — in other words, things that a theater company would not put on its mainstage during the summer. Fitting that bill is an Irish play called Bop and Evey, onstage through Sunday, Feb. 10.

Actor and director David Yeates came to HART by way of Ireland and has been a key part of the theater for the past three years. It’s his connection to Irish playwright Caoimhin O Rian that led to this show getting on the studio schedule. O Rian’s play grew out of a college course assignment to write a scene in a nonsensical language. Inspired by the outcome, O Rian crafted a full-length play around that scene.

HART’s production has the distinction of being the first time the show has been produced outside Ireland.

Yeates plays Rob with a comfortable ease. He clearly revels in bringing a character from his homeland to life. Rob is a ne’er-do-well slacker who has somehow wound up back in his parents’ home, trying to sort out his life and find direction. He’s hapless and has the appearance of a caged animal when the show begins.

Erin McCarson arrives wrapped in winter attire and dragging a heap of luggage behind her. Her Evelyn, unlike Rob, has gone off and made something of her life and seems to be begrudgingly back for Christmas with the family. Along with her suitcases, she also carries a lot of unresolved emotional baggage. McCarson brings a haunting sadness to her performance, yet early on she shows immense comedic chops when she tries to sleep on a far-too-tiny sofa and contorts into a host of configurations in an attempt to get comfortable.

The parents (only seen in photographs on the walls) are away, and Rob has a mostly prepared turkey, awaiting a call from his mother to signal him to finish cooking it in time for the parents’ return. But something is clearly amiss. Evelyn’s unresolved issues and her fear of confronting her parents leads to some tension between the siblings who slip back into adolescent behavior toward one another. Chaos begins to reign, and the house is turned literally and emotionally upside down, culminating in a game in which they speak a made-up language from their childhood (from where the names Bop and Evey originate). But the subtext reveals many a secret as to why Evelyn is so terrified of being back there.

The show is a lean, tension-filled piece that gives both actors a chance to run the emotional gamut. Steve Lloyd is credited as director, but he admits that the production is mostly the work of the two actors, with only his consultation. Such is the way of the studio.

In 22 years of studio productions, HART has earned a loyal following, and most shows sell out quickly. Early reservations are highly recommended.

WHAT: Bop And Evey
WHERE: HART Theatre’s Feichter Studio, 250 Piegeon St., Waynesville, harttheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Feb. 10, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $13

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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