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The Clockwork Theatre Presents "Underground" at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre
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The Clockwork Theatre Presents "Underground" at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

The Clockwork Theatre
Harrison J. Harvey, Executive Director
Jay Rohloff, Artistic Director


By James McManus
Directed by Owen M. Smith

At the
Beckett Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Doug Nyman as Bones McCarron
Philip J. Cutrone as Tracks McCarron
Jay Rohloff as Duke McCarron
Larry Greenbush as Bucky
Peter Iasillo as Randy
Marianna McClellan as Mindy Lee
Tina Alexis Allen as Lydia McCarron

Scenic Design: Jay Rohloff
Costume Design: Vincent Vigilante
Sound Design: Dale Bigall
Technical Director: Vincent Vigilante
Production Stage Manager: Michelle Hines

Press: Joe Trentacosta, Springer Associates PR

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 29, 2009

The Clockwork Theatre has produced numerous plays of thought-provoking stories, adding scientific and ethical questions, as well as themes of interpersonal relationships The ensemble and technical-production staff are fairly consistent and always offer works of the highest caliber that fascinate the audience and provoke it to relate to the characters in their dilemmas and resolutions. Underground is said to be based on the 2006 Sago Mine disaster, with the public (including me) watching television, in expectation that 13 miners would jump off a rescue truck. Unfortunately, the owners and staff of the mine did not reveal that almost all of the miners were already presumed to have perished, which in fact they did. Playwright, James McManus, in this new play, has found the emotional essence of the West Virginia mine culture, with assistance from Director, Owen M. Smith, who authenticated that culture with rough gesture, rural romance, and religious and family bonds.

Doug Nyman, as Bones McCarron, strives to escape his environment, with Marianna McClellan, as Mindy Lee, his partner in song and in love. They’re an adorable young couple, full of wonder and dreams, but the cavernous dark mine keeps them stuck like a magnet. Bones’ brother is Jay Rohloff, as Duke McCarron, a fun brother to hang out with for fishing or fooling around, until Duke takes over one of Bones’ mine shifts, on a fateful night, so Bones can perform at a gig. Filled with endless remorse, Bones stays in town, postponing his country music career. Bones and Mindy Lee sing catchy duos, including one favorite with perky refrains. The innocence of their romance is in stark contrast to the percussive sound effects that mimic the collapsing mine. Tina Alexis Allen, as Bones and Duke’s mother, Lydia, is filled with warmth, tolerance, and stoicism. She fears nothing and is prepared for everything. Poignant scenes include the two women, as they await news with repressed dread.

Philip J. Cutrone, as Tracks McCarron, the McCarron patriarch, wants to take the brunt and burden of the mine’s daily danger to ease his sons’ risk. His roles as husband, father, and mine buddy are as sturdy and solid as the very mine he inhabits. Larry Greenbush and Peter Iasillo, Jr., are the mine buddies that inform the audience about the moment-to-moment shifts in safety and fear that exist in the treacherous underground. Jay Rohloff, The Clockwork Theatre’s Artistic Director, designed the deep, dark mine, that doubles as the foundation of the bucolic grass above. Dale Bigall conceived a sound design with portentous effects. Vincent Vigilante’s lighting cleverly changes the scenes from suffocating to sensitive. He doubles for technical direction. One cannot leave the theatre without a deep concern for the future fate of the coal miners of West Virginia, whose employers outfit them with faulty oxygen tanks and antiquated rescue rituals. When the miners write final notes to their wives on the back of a deck of cards, the drama could be set a century ago.

Doug Nyman in
The Clockwork Theatre's "Underground"
Courtesy of Owen M. Smith

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at