Murder, intrigue, and immorality will continue tonight on the stage at Madera South High School, as the Madera South Theatre Company presents Lanford Wilson’s play, “Book of Days.”
Twelve high school thespians have taken on the characters of some of the leading citizens of Dublin, Missouri, and are delivering an iconoclastic view of society in the little, make-believe town of four thousand souls.
The story revolves around two families, the Hochs, who are liberals in their small, rural community, and the Bates, the town’s most prominent and conservative power brokers.
Other factions include people involved in a theatre production at a nearby Christian college, and the members of the town’s conservative Protestant church who take a dim view of the theatre folks and their rendition of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan.”
Dublin’s citizens plod along in their dogmatic slumbers, going to work, going to church, and going to school until tragedy strikes.
Walt Bates (German Rivera-Ibarra), owner of the cheese factory in town, is shot while hunting during a tornado. The only person with him is his employee, Earl Hill (Thorn Castellon), who explains that Walt accidentally shot himself during the storm.
It doesn’t take long for Earl’s account of the shooting to raise suspicions in the mind of Ruth Hoch (Kiara Williams), wife of Len Hoch (Jorge Romero), especially when she discovers that Walt’s shotgun has never been fired.
Like the character she is playing in the college play, Ruth rises up like a modern Joan of Arc and lands like a gadfly on the backs of the people, especially the church, insisting that Dublin pull its head out of the sand and rise above the status quo.
The respectable people in the town, however, blithely turn their self-satisfied heads from the truth. Their own self-interests demand it.
Walt’s wife, Sharon Bates (Briana Flores), although a devoted and loving wife and mother, is too religious and proper to question the morality of the people of Dublin. She is very much aware of her family’s position in the community and won’t do anything to jeopardize that, even when it means denying her son James Bates’ (Jose Figueroa) questionable behavior.
Meanwhile the lazy, hypocritical, and highly manipulative James has his way with just about everyone. He has managed to land a job as an aide to a state politician and goes on to elected political office himself.
James is married to Louann, (Mazzy Olmeda and Jenna Valencia), who is very much aware of her husband’s infidelity. She is Ruth Hoch’s cousin.
Louann is smart, religious, and filled with conflict, she frequently seeks solace from the Rev. Bobby Groves (Dylan Murphy), who does his best to sweep all controversy under the rug.
Len Hoch, as the manager of the cheese factory, is too busy trying to move up the ladder in the world of business to pay heed to his wife’s warnings that something evil has come to their town.
Boyd Middleton (Diego Barba), although he is talented and friendly, certainly can’t be relied upon to be critical of Dublin. He has come there to direct “Saint Joan” because his professional life has taken a nosedive and rumors of some untoward behavior have followed him to town. Besides, he is having an affair with Ginger Reed (Brianna Rivas), his outspoken and irreverent assistant.
Not even Sheriff Connie Atkins (Cecelia Cantu) is willing to risk the social tranquility of Dublin to join Ruth in the search for truth in the killing of Walt Bates.
The only person in Dublin who could even be remotely considered capable of joining Ruth in the expose of the death of Walt Bates would be Martha Hoch (Miranda Chaidez-Perez), Len Hoch’s mother.
In her mid-fifties, Martha is a holdover from the days of Woodstock and a former flower child who is the intelligent, outspoken dean and a teacher at the college. She despises the closed-minded atmosphere of the town.
But alas¸ no one can breathe the fresh air of truth across the fields of Dublin. They bury Walt Bates and baptize the one who pulled the trigger while the real killer goes free. And life goes on in Dublin — not necessarily ignorant but certainly blissful.
“Book of Days” will play tonight at 7 p.m. in the theater of Madera South High School. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
The play will also be performed on Sunday at 2 p.m. at MSHS.