Maegan Campbell Humanities 1301. P05 3/25/09 Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn The play opens with Miss Watson, Judge Thatcher, and Tom Sawyer talking to Huck about how he must learn to read the Bible if he wants to make it to Heaven. A frustrated Huck escapes in the night to a hideout where he and his friends discuss all of the naughty things they will do to get to hell. When Huck arrives back home, he is taken by his Pap to their wooded cabin. His inebriated father attempts to murder Huck but passes out before he is able to.
Huck sees his passed out Pap as a chance to escape and plots his own murder. He kills a pig and splatters the pig’s blood and guts around the cabin so when Pap wakes from his slumber he thinks Huck has been killed. Once on Jackson’s Island, Jim, who escaped from slavery to evade getting sold runs into Huck. Realizing this, Huck decides to help him make it to North Country where there is freedom. The pair narrowly escapes the men that are looking to capture Jim and return him to Miss Watson. Huck and Jim stumble upon a raft and begin their journey down the mighty Mississippi.
When the two sail past the site where the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers meet they are greeted by the King and the Duke, jail escapees who persuade Jim and Huck into letting them come along. However, little do Huck and Jim know, the con artists plot to sell Jim back into slavery for their own advantage. In Act Two, the group arrives in Arkansas where Huck, the Duke, and the King scheme a way to make some easy money and devise a spectacle called “The Royal Nonesuch. ” The three come across a boy on the dock who eventually tells them about a funeral in which there is wealth to be inherited.
Huck, and the con artists attend the funeral posing as the inheritors to the fortune. Huck feels bad for conning the mourning family and steals the money back from the Duke and King. Once Huck makes it back to the raft, he finds the Duke has been tarred and fathered for his actions at the funeral and learns that he has sold Jim for forty dollars. It is then that Huck vows to find and free Jim even if it means he will go to hell. While looking for Jim, Huck goes the home of Tom Sawyer’s Aunt and Uncle, who believe Huck is their nephew. They are the couple that bought Jim from the Duke and once Tom arrives, they free him.
Jim decides to continue to go to North and Huck decides to go west where he can continue to be uncivilized. The story line is clear and is told through the use of monologues and conversations. I found the measures that the Huck, the King and the Duke resorted to for money interesting. For example, my favorite scene was “The Royal Nonesuch” scene. I thought that everyone really go into it including Huck and the con artists, the tarts, and even the conservative townspeople. Having been exposed to the tales of Huck Finn previously, I understood the play and was able to follow the story line.
Director Mark Mullino did a fine job of guiding interaction with the stage and props. In the scenes where Huck and Jim were traveling on the raft, they appear to be rowing the raft and it seemed to flow across the stage. The actors interacted with each other well also. I particularly enjoyed the scene when the Duke and King are sword fighting, actually the Duke was sword fighting. I believe that Mark was successful in directing Huck’s emotions. When Huck sneaks up on Jim pretending to be a slave capturer, he shows emotion and feels regret.
At the funeral, Huck feels bad for going along with stealing the inheritance from Mary Jane Wilkes and reveals to her what has happened. It is here that he shows great maturity and emotion. The use of timing was displayed throughout the play but is most memorable in the scene where Huck arrives at Aunt and Uncle Phelps’ home around the same time that Tom is supposed to arrive for his visit. It is also unforgettable when Huck and Jim arrive at the mouth of the Ohio River at the same time as the King and the Duke. I believe that casting choices made by the director were successful.
Huck was spot on in appearing wild and immature. However, I feel that Miss Watson and Judge Thatcher could have been more interesting, although I don’t believe those characters are supposed to be too exciting. I think the play was paced perfectly, I never felt as if it was moving to fast or too slowly for me to follow along with the play. I find that Huck, played by Aaron Slaughter, gave his absolute best performance. I also really enjoyed watching the Duke, Corey Cleary-Stoner, because he was always one hundred percent into his role, especially during the sword fighting.
Mark Twain, Craig “Yo” Erickson, also did an extraordinary job. He was completely into character from his costume to his voice and even the way he stood. He was on stage for the entire play however I only noticed him during his speaking parts; he was never distracting. I was drawn to the Duke and King, they both had very good performances and it is because of their acting ability, not because of the roles they played. The lighting director, Tom Hull, enhanced the play by using lighting to set the scenes.
In the scenes when Huck and Jim were paddling down the river, the light appeared to be a sunset or nighttime, since they traveled at night. The lighting conveyed the emotion of the play during scenes such as the funeral when the lights were dimmed. The lighting cues were on time without being erratic. The light changes flowed quite nicely with the scenes. Designer of the set, Craig “Yo” Erickson, also played Mark Twain. For the majority of the play, the set consisted of a dock on either side of the stage and the raft, which glided smoothly as Huck and Fin sailed down the river.
The set created a dark, steamy river; a somber funeral home; and the other locations in which the play took place. Above the set hung five screens and during the performances, certain pages from the book were projected on them to further tell of Huck’s adventure. The coffin, table, chairs, docks, raft, windows, and much more all appeared to be constructed from wood. The set offered several different entry points, during the play characters entered at the back of the stage, the front of the stage, the middle of the stage, and during one scene Tom Sawyer, Judge Thatcher, Widow
Douglas, Pap, and Miss Watson stood on a balcony high above the left side of the stage. There were many changes to the set during the play, for example During the scene when Huck and Pap are at the cabin in the woods, there was a bed, some shelves, and other things to give the appearance of a cabin. When Huck was at the home of Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle, the set consisted first of a window, table and chairs and when Tom and Huck were helping Jim escape there was a tiny shack with a window in which Jim was trapped. The person responsible for the play’s sound was Andrew Duckworth.
There was sound beyond the actors’ voices, which were sound effects. There were sounds of lightning, rain, thunder, chains and the crack of a whip. It is during the scene when Huck and Jim sing “River in the Rain,” that the sounds of rain, thunder and lightning occur. And when the captured slave escapees are being returned to their owners the chain sounds are heard. The director of music was Vonda Bowling. The music heard during the play was performed live. The musicians played instruments including a harmonica, piano, acoustic guitars, trumpet, and cello.
My favorite part of the play was the music. I enjoyed the use of the harmonica and thought the music was very fun. My favorite songs were “River in the Rain” and “The Royal Nonesuch. ” The play’s choreographer was Paula Morelan. The dances, such as “The Royal Nonesuch” both enhanced the play and made use of the stage. “The Royal Nonesuch” stood out the most to me because it was the most energetic. In my opinion, the play was very successful. I expected it to be boring, however was pleasantly surprised with the positive performance.