The Lightning Gap: Review

Check out the review of Epoch Theatre’s “The Lightning Gap!”

The Lightning Gap

by James Comfort II, Ithaca, NY

Review by Ross Haarstad

James Comfort II’s The Lightning Gap takes a gentle swing through the coming of age story, with a strong focus on the self-empowerment of a teenage girl. Clover McNamara wants to play golf, just like her late Daddy, and apparently, the majority of men in little Epoch, Texas have done. But the local club, Paschal, steeped in tradition, has never allowed women members. ‘Well, no women have ever been interested,’ explains the flummoxed Mayor, head of Paschal’s board.

Comfort uses a by-the-numbers naturalistic approach, which puts the weight on plot, characters, and humor. He has a sharp ear for the stylings of the teenagers—Clover, her best friend and fellow cheerleader Bailey, and her semi-secret Black boyfriend, Wesley; there is some delicate comedy in Clover and Wesley making meta-commentary about their dating.

The script neatly places Clover in the context of small-town expectations—of course Epoch’s “sweet Clover” will be the third generation of McNamara woman to be named homecoming queen. Clover is buried by ‘niceness’ that never sees her for who she is and now Clover is gonna fight back.

Comfort also directs, and though the scenes flow smoothly, they also are fairly static; and opening had some rough edges. The actors for the adult characters employ the vestige of a Texas accent, but the youngsters do not.

Veteran Ithaca actors make a feast of the well-drawn roles of the Mayor (a droll Arthur Bicknell, artfully deflecting Clover’s insistent questioning); the mother, Mary McNamara (Suzanne Vandemark, all surface polish with sharp edges) and the plum role of Mrs. Taylor, a grandmotherly sort with a touch of spunk (Judith Andrew in a sparkling and endearing performance.)

Tyree Cobbins is astute, quick, and grounded as Wesley; he and Ana Luisa Brady McCullough as Clover have a sweet chemistry. Kristina Feldesman bubbles and backtracks as best friend, Bailey. McCullough is always engaging, but a bit timorous in her early exchanges. She opens up nicely when by herself fantasizing and has a terrific row with her mother (Comfort’s sharpest writing.)

I’m a bit of a skeptic of easy resolutions to complicated problems; Comfort ignites more issues than he can resolve. I believe a more complicated, longer play lies hidden in the current text.