Sunday, August 20, 2023



 Emily James, Stephen Tyler Howell, Roxanne Hart, Evangeline Edwards, Samuel Garnett 
                                                   Photo by John Flynn.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery explores a fascinating premise.  Set in the back woods of Wyoming., it's  August, 2017. Charlottesville has just happened.

Justin, Teresa, Emily & Kevin have arrived to celebrate the induction of Emily's Mother, Gina, (Roxanne Hart) as president of Transfiguration College of Wyoming. It's a Catholic college whose curriculum focuses on the goals of the  church and its parochial values. Each character may represent one of the archetypes described in the book  "The Fourth Turning" by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Please don't quote me. 

The Fourth Turning describes four "seasonal" episodes,  fifteen to twentyfive year trends showing how the world works.  

"Poster Boy for the Far Right" Teresa (Evangeline Edwards),  a self involved narcissist who spews MAGA Rhetoric, employing her absent self censor,  loudly paints with a broad brush. Each of the five characters protests in, essentially, the same voice: that of the author:   self involved and manipulative. Perhaps this is to let the audience know that he's done his homework and poop poop de loop? Teresa  arrives late to the party but hits the stage cranked to Spinal Tap eleven. She never lets up!    Her screed virtually declares the now x45th president to be the Second Coming / Savior.

The book that sourced this play may deserve more attention. The play, however, asks a lot of questions, posits some answers that might all just make sense in the end:  doop de doop.

Playwright Arbery must have done a ton of research to create such a broad and sweeping examination of what The Fourth Turning may mean for mankind.  Speaking through his characters, we may find hope or disaster if the theory holds up. 

Justin (Stephen Tyler Howell), whose basso profundo rattles the scenery, opens the show very slowly and then with a bang. The connection must be to show that he is a capable man's man of the woods. The symbolism is shallow.  His turn at bat presents a story of gratitude (each character has a monologue that may bolster the archetype that Arbery intends for them to represent) is simplistic but nicely recited.

Pretty Emily (Emily James),  long suffereing  empath , eternally apologetic and kind, has close to the last word with an amazing hysterical (no not funny!) HYSTERICAL moment spewing  vitriol in marked contrast to the kindly supportive sweetheart that we met at the outset.

Kevin  (Samuel Garnett): Drunk.. Really.. really drunk and why the playwright has him smoke adds pretty much nothing to the stereotype of the stumblebum alcoholic who..he admits.. just wants a girlfriend. Kevin is weak. He questions Teresa why Catholics are bound to honor the Virgin Mary?  The question is fielded confidently by Teresa, who quotes Walter Bruggermann who has decided that grace may accompany the 'grotesque'  Go figure. Lay that on the election of x45! I don't know Breuggermann either.

Political and ecumenical rhetoric with Teresa commanding the stage undeniably flaps and blusters, leaving me to wonder if the playwright, in his fortress of solitude strutted and bellowed up and down  the hall,  shouting in each character's voice. .. arguing with himself, all the while attempting to coalesce this odd crew into the voice he really wants us to hear.  

That true voice may just come from Gina! (Roxanne Hart)!!  Gina is a senior and more experienced in the ways of the world  than the others. Gina arrives to collect Emily, after a long day of being anointed  the president of Transfiguration College of Wyoming  to greet her former students, whom she taught while she experienced cancer treatment and birthed a litter of kids, including poor Emily.  When challenged by Teresa, Gina, though exhausted from the day's activities, deals with Teresa's ridiculous rants with one hand tied behind her back even if she did hate Obama!

When a play is marginally written with expectation of an audience to be slapped silly with 'facts' and opinions and these diverse personalities, all of whom declare alligiance to conservative politics and the Catholic church there is a point where I just wished that the text had helped me to understand the premise.  Does it turn on the Charlottesville riot that Teresa's hero  declared to have involved good people as well as bad people? 

 Guillermo Cienfuegos' excellent stage pictures and a beauty of a set by Stephenie Kerley Schwartz can't make this a "good" play, but the actors, given what they've been given, knock the performance aspect out of the park.

I support John Perrin Flynn's hearty band of artists.  There must be a pony in here somewhere.  Thanks to Mr. Cienfuegos, everyone is in the same play, but what it's really saying escapes me.

Justin    Stephen Tyler Howell
Emily   Emily James
Teresa  Evangeline Edwards
Kevin  Samuel Garnett
Gina    Roxanne Hart 


by Will Arbery

Rogue Machine Theatre

At the Matrix on Melrose in Hollywood.

Please check the website for dates and times.

This is a rough copy & paste of the credits in the program for The Heroes of the Fourth Turning.

Please forgive the odd parsing.  

This play deserves an educated audience ready to grapple with presumptions and contrary ideas.  Evidently, the information copied from the on line program needs to make all 'E's caps ..
EvangElinE Edwards*, 

samuEl garnEtt , 


stEpHEn tylEr HowEll, 

Emily JamEs*

by Will Arbery

Lighting Design
dan wEingartEn
Sound Design
CHristopHEr mosCatiEllo**
Assistant Director
BrEtt aunE
Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Costume Design
CHristinE CovEr FErro
Presents the Los Angeles Premiere of
Rehearsal Stage Manager
raCHEl ann manHEimEr
Graphic Design
miCHEllE HanzElova-BiErBauEr
Technical Co-Directors
JoE mCClEan & danE Bowman
Scenic Design
stEpHaniE KErlEy sCHwartz**
JoHn pErrin Flynn
Produced By
J ustin oKin & JoHn pErrin Flynn
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, The Union of Professional
Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
viCtoria HoFFman
Stage Manager
ramón valdEz
programs For tHis play wErE gEnErously undErwrittEn By
BarBara Kallir
Scenic Artist
marK mEndElson
Directed by
guillErmo CiEnFuEgos

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