A Stellar Production of ‘Our Country’s Good’ at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop | South Pasadenan

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | The cast of “Our Country’s Good” on stage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop

South Pasadena Theater Workshop returns with a stellar production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s phenomenal 1988 play, “Our Country’s Good,” about the redemptive power of theater as a group of convicts in a 1780s penal colony in Australia are responsible for directing a classic play. SPTW is set in a charming black box theater and Clay Wilcox’s set design is innovative in its simplicity. The actors sit on the perimeter of the stage for much of the action, changing clothes, hats and accessories on the hooks and shelves on the walls. It’s very theatrical and we, the audience, are invited to play.

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | The cast of ‘Our Country’s Good’ onstage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop.

Captain Arthur Phillip brought a fleet of convicts and Royal Marines to build a penal colony in Australia because the prisons of England were overrun. People were condemned for the slightest crime, such as the theft of bread, and were considered irredeemable. Phillip begins to question these ideas and thinks convicts could benefit from exposure to culture. He enlists a 2n/a Lieutenant, Ralph Clark, to direct a restorative comedy, “The Recruiting Officer”, in hopes of giving the convicts something productive and creative to do and perhaps the possibility of redemption.

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | The cast of ‘Our Country’s Good’ onstage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop.

Director Sally Smythe has assembled an extraordinary cast of actors who work seamlessly, with the majority playing the dual roles of convicts in the play and officers guarding them. With a change in accent, costume piece, and demeanor, the actors make themselves nearly unrecognizable in their dual portrayals. One change in particular, which I won’t reveal, tricked me into my final bows.

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | The cast of ‘Our Country’s Good’ onstage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop.

Sam Cass as the 2n/a The lieutenant is really at the heart of the series as we see him go from someone ambitious about his own career to someone who discovers a compassion for his fellow human beings as well as a passion for one of his convicts/ actresses. Cass is charming as a serious lieutenant allowing the audience to be wowed by the cast as they are. Tavis L. Baker makes a vicious major who opposes the game and tries to thwart their efforts. Patrick Brooker is memorable as a tortured wannabe hopelessly in love with “Duckling” (Danny Brown), one of the prostitutes. Pat Towne provides some of the show’s heartiest laughs as fantastical budding comedian Sideway, while exuding authority and grace as Captain Phillip.

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | Esdras Toussaint in ‘Our Country’s Good’ on stage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop.

Esdras Toussaint is powerful as a native tribesman, and Smythe uses him as a kind of mystical, Puck-like character who observes and predicts at the same time. Michaela Ivey is a central figure as wild and thief Liz Morden. She was given a role in the play and we slowly see her new identity crystallize through her performance, giving her purpose and a voice for the first time. He’s most powerfully drawn to her character, but we see the transformation of the whole company as she reclaims her humanity through art. Rounding out the extremely talented ensemble are Robert Cesario, Kila Packett, Schuyler Mastain, Grace Hawthorn, Daisy Donahue and stunt double Joey Major.

Like a full-blooming lotus flower growing in mud, beauty and laughter are created in the most dire of circumstances, and “Our Country Is Good” is a moving tale that poignantly illustrates the power of the creative spirit. .

PHOTO: Chris Becker | South Pasadena News | Sam Cass and Patrick Brooker in ‘Our Country’s Good’ onstage at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop.

Performances are at the South Pasadena Theater Workshop through June 26. Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m. Special show on June 8 at 8 p.m. SPTW is located at 1507 El Centro St, South Pasadena, CA 91030. Tickets are currently priced at $25-$35 and are available online or at the door, paid by cash or check (payable to South Pasadena Theater Workshop). Look for upcoming Pay What You Will performances!

Masks and proof of vaccination required for entry.

The play contains mature language and authentic themes from the period in which the play is set. Not recommended for children under 13 years old.