There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Adapted by Horton Foote
By all accounts, William Faulkner took less pride in his intermittent career as a Hollywood screenwriter than in his regular assignments for The Saturday Evening Post—or even in the power-plant job he held down while cranking out As I Lay Dying. With the exception of his mid-’40s adaptations of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not (both crafted with input from his pal Howard Hawks), Faulkner was famous for keeping his creative and moneymaking pursuits on separate sides of the room. Perhaps that’s why Faulkner abandoned efforts to adapt his own Yoknapatawpha County fables after one brief attempt—all those long, intoxicating, stream-of-conscious sentences and Shakespearean allusions and narrative shifts might add up to one endless, insufferable script without the kind of parsing that’s antithetical to Faulkner’s writing. In a way, Horton Foote remains true to Faulkner in his overly genteel adaptation of middle-period short Tomorrow; Faulkner’s imprint is all over the orations that lawyer Thornton Douglas delivers to bookend both sides of the story. But Foote’s truncated version owes more to his own deep reverence for the Southern literary tradition and the less-is-more stoicism of Faulkner’s archrival, Hemingway. Robert Duvall, who starred in the 1972 film version, describes hermetic watchman Jackson Fentry as his favorite role, one he basically revisited in The Apostle, and it’s certainly a toothsome part: In Quotidian’s production, John Decker communicates passion, sorrow, and regret with his eyes alone. The entire relationship between Fentry and the already-pregnant Madonna figure Sarah Eubanks (a beguiling Michele Osherow) plays out in a series of furtive glances, tics, and suggestive expressions. Director Jack Sbarbori seems intent on exploring the magnetism between the mismatched lovers in painstaking detail, arranging fetching stage pictures amid the trade tools and ornaments that adorn the walls of Fentry’s shack. Foote supplies brief interactions with other townspeople to disrupt the static, and the chemistry between Sbarbori’s leads makes it all watchable for a spell. What’s missing is a dramatic arc: Tension is suggested only in the narrator’s recounting of what happened after the characters’ romantic encounter. That’s the part where Fentry sits on a jury 20 years later, forced to make an unsettling moral judgment for or against the son who was wrested from his care in childhood. It’s also the part of the play that takes place entirely offstage, which is an awful letdown for any audience member who’s just spent 90 solid minutes watching one character convalesce in bed while another attends to her comfort. In Foote’s adaptation, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in a petty pace—and arrives seeming too much like an afterthought.—Nick Green