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A Report on the Reading of ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Cherry Lane Theatre

Patience Malarkey was alive and kicking and under the new direction of award winning Director Larry Moss, at the January 24th industry reading of Breathing Under Dirt at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. If I raved them for their Maryland premiere, well pardon me, this production had room to grow and has burst forth with vigor and fresh air.

The seats were filled to capacity with invitation only producers and industry talent from both coasts. There was no hesitancy for both knee slapping laughs and genuine tears as the story wound its way through pain and promise.

Cynthia Watros continues in the role of Patience and her extreme desperation; grasping and gasping to find herself in the cobwebs of her own realities. Moss’ direction was apparent from the very first scene, evidenced by layers of gripping freshness, raw emotion, grittiness and southern authenticity.

New to the cast was Robert Bogue who is clearly working to develop his own style of overpowering intellectual intimidation in the role of John. I found myself recalling nightmares from which I could not awake or escape. Deeply dark with sensual tension and a challenge to play, Bogue’s character is akin to an invitation to a dance you know you might not come back from, but you’re drawn to just the same.

One area in which I had hoped to see more attention given was to expand and develop the complex character of Grace, played by Tina Sloan. In addition to a few script changes, Sloan must be preparing to change into a new pair of shoes for Grace because she revealed to us more of her fears, challenges

Cynthia Watros, Michael O'Leary, Robert Bogue, Tina Sloan. Photo: Sue Coflin/Max Photos

and pent up emotions. This provided a good working canvas of energy for Watros to play with and brought both characters to new heights.

Chuck Elbert, skillfully crafted by playwright himself Michael O’Leary, was brings us the church elder ‘preacher wannabe’ who craves the power of tending his flock. His comedic exuberance to control his sinners and lift his voice to proclaim hate for the sin, (but very obvious love for the sinner), balanced the rhythm of the oft painful and shocking revelations.

A devilish little Lucy, or ‘Lucifer’ as she prefers, played by Maryland native Alana Troxell might make you want to cut your own switch and take off after her as she flees the stage after behaving ever so badly.

Credit is due to playwright Michael O’Leary who has obviously continued to develop the script. But, the profound influence of accomplished director Larry Moss was evident, providing a melody to the world penned by O’Leary. Moss certainly breathed new life into this promising work.

The staged reading showed the story isn’t reliant on the missing elements of a fully staged production, but actually stands quite strongly on its own. This is the purpose of and a lesson for anyone attempting effective staged readings. Breathing Under Dirt continues to evolve and I believe merits further development and full production.

What does Patience want and why can’t she get it? The answer will blow you away in this gritty, sexy dance down the painful path to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Breathing Under Dirt staged an industry only reading on January 24, 2017 at 11:30 AM at Cherry Lane Theatre –

38 Commerce Street, in New York, New York.

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