After you walk into the cavernous converted church to see A Shadow of Honor, the new play by Peter Coy being premiered by Keegan Theatre one of the first things you see is a rifle hanging above the fireplace in an old Virginia homestead. Later, when this rifle is taken down, you see that it has hung there long enough to have left an outline on the wall.
Director Matthew Keenan’s attention to characteristic details like this tell you a lot about the play you are watching.”
This is a two-plots-for-the-price-of-one evening, in the style of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, as two families living in that same rural house one hundred years apart each try to regain ownership of a desirable tract of nearby farmland. In 1907, the Ruffin family is derailed from this endeavor when patriarch William (Mark A. Rhea) must deal with a possible affront to the honor of his daughter Grace (Emily Levey). In 2007, young history teacher Tyler McNeill (Michael Innocenti) and his pregnant wife Kathy (Shannon Listol) are similarly sidetracked when certain discoveries they make force Tyler to confront the troubled past he had with his father before he himself becomes a parent.
In the end, the two plots end up being only distantly related, but this is kind of the point.
Like the mark of that rifle on the wall, Coy’s well-researched play is concerned with the long-lasting effects that violence and war can have — even on two families almost completely unrelated to each other, and even long after the guns have been hung up.”
…the play will certainly give you lots to think about …. there’s a fantastic, shocking first act monologue that Innocenti delivers with an unadorned intensity; it’s the kind of effortless-seeming, honest acting that actually takes whole heaps of art to deliver so truthfully.
Rhea gives us a complex, grizzled portrayal of a man who we accept as a stand-in for all the wounds the South received in the Civil War, a man as apt and able to wax philosophically on the concept of honor as he is to take up his firearm and defend it.