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Larry Litt

Old Hickory

Old Hickory
Written and performed by Ric Siler
Directed by Wallace Norman
Woodstock Fringe Festival of Theatre & Song
Byrdcliffe Theater
Woodstock NY
Reviewed August 12, 2010 by Larry Litt

If you've been reading me over the years you know I have a soft spot for one person shows that attempt to expose deeply felt, raw extreme motions and situations of human life. I like it even more when the writer/performer mixes wit with a descriptive power that brings us directly into the place where these emotions live. This is straight talk, capo a capo, actor to each individual audience member.

We first meet Jimmy Hall in his West Virginia kitchen in his 'house in the holler.' He's sharpening his favorite knife, Old Hickory. He reminisces about Old Hickory's values. First, it's a very sharp knife given to him by his grandmother. Second it's always there when you need it. And third it never talks back like some people, particularly a nagging wife. There in lies the metaphor and storytelling thread of Ric Siler's funny, murderous tale of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy hates girl, boy wants to kill girl.

Although murder isn't normally a comedic situation, in Siler's capable hands he tells the story of his romance, marriage, divorce and eventual heightened rage with a wry 'how did this happen to me?' boyish innocence.

He thinks knows the answer, he went out one night to Beulah's Bar where he met his future wife. It was 'couple sparring' at first sight, from bar stool to bedroom.

Siler's homicidal tale introduces a gamut of Southern hillbilly characters giving him advice, usually free and bad. There's Orville Sprouse, a good ole boy party animal who will always get you in trouble. Ever loving, all wise Grammaw who gives and gives more, Jimmy will never meet another woman like her. An elusive hermit, herbalist, moonshiner mountain man named Catfish who can solve any problem if only Jimmy can find him.

And of course the nameless, faceless dread ex-wife from hell who haunts every moment of Jimmy's life with screeching shrew critical sarcasm.

Oh man, I almost forgot the main character-prop, Old Hickory, the embodiment of all Jimmy's anger and revenge. Jimmy knows it can be both a vile weapon of personal destruction or a trusted useful kitchen utensil.

Siler's Southern storytelling voice rings true. He took me to a common but unspoken agreement that when marriages go bad, they can get even worse after a divorce.

Director Wallace Norman moves Siler around Byrdcliffe's classic stage, creating character spaces for Siler's many voices, with minimal sets.

This is a must see show, an experience for any mature adult who has ever stopped for a moment, with a knife in his hand and thought, "What if I put a stop to this harridan's shrieking so I can get some peace." The answers are waiting.


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