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Theatre Review: Autumn Springs Ahead at Crossroads

Crossroads Theatre Ends Its Season With Well-Composed Political Drama
Jerome Preston Bates
Jerome Preston Bates as Mayor Franklyn Longely Crossroads Theatre Company

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--Theater is a collaborative art, requiring actors, a director and a tech crew to create a refined and finished work.

But theater also starts with a playwright and it’s his or her vision that drives a drama, comedy or tragedy into a cohesive stage work.  Nothing solidifies this concept more than Crossroads’ current production of Richard Wesley’s Autumn.

Supported by a fine cast and a skilled director, Wesley’s caustic, direct and engrossing dialogue didn’t only affirm his deft hand at the word processer.

It took us into the world of Franklyn Longley, a fading, engrained urban politician, who, from behind his desk at city hall, is unable to see the web of self-destruction he’s woven while climbing the wrong ladder of success.

In the title role of his honor Mayor Longley, we have Jerome Preston Bates.

The talented Bates gave his audience a squirmy, self-absorbed, yet tragic figure that is reminiscent of King Lear or Richard Nixon.  Bates’ character arch took Longley from a puffed up “I’m in charge,” kind of guy, to a lonely and isolated man who realizes he may not have accomplished anything of substance.

Count Stovall portrayed Longley’s Chief of Staff Zack Drayton, a shrewd machine politician who is the real force at city hall and turns out to be Longley’s Brutus.

It's obvious Stovall knows his stuff and the stage chemistry between him and Bates showed the experience of both of these fine actors.

This reviewer is already a big fan of the gifted Stephanie Berry. As Tricia, Berry spent much of her performance on stage alone interacting with incorporeal characters she made real, not an easy task.

Kim Wetson-Moran was ideal as Melinda Longley, one of those exausted wives, like Patricia Nixon or Ruth Madoff who have a sense of what’s going on and are readying for the inevitable disaster. Weston-Moran’s gave a high caliber performance that this reviewer enjoyed very much.

Michael Chenevert gave a fine portrayal of Ronald Drayton, Zack’s contemporary thinking son who’s also an emerging political figure in his own right.

Ronald, who refuses to be one of Langley’s minions, knows it’s time for the Mayor to go and skillfully exploits Langley’s underestimation of him.

Rounding out the rest of the cast were very credible performances was Terria Joseph as the retiring governor and Joseph Mancuso as real estate developer Calabrese.

Autumn’s production did have one flaw. This reviewer was sitting on the left side of the house with a clear vista to the stage left wing, and the visible off-stage business going on was distracting.

Autumn is a well-drawn finely acted contemporary drama about the ever changing urban American political mosaic, its casualties, and its winners.  It is also highly recommended.

Ticket information is available online at www.crossroadstheatrecompany.org.  The play runs through Sunday, May 3.