History comes alive in the Edge of the World Theatre’s production of Beth Henley’s “Abundance.” Set in the Wyoming Territory and spanning 25 years from the late 1860s, the story follows the fate of two young mail-order brides who meet while waiting for their future husbands to pick them up.
The two women — Bess Johnson (Sara Trowbridge) and Macon Hill (Stephanie McBain) — couldn’t be more different and, neither could their husbands-to-be.
Macon bursts with enthusiasm, thrilled to be part of this wild-west adventure. Her only concern — what if her husband is terribly ugly? Bess is as backwards as Macon is buoyant. She’s scared yet excited to meet Michael Flan, the man who painted a picture of the west in words through his letters. Unfortunately, when Mr. Flan arrives, it’s not Michael. Instead, his cruel, grimacing, outrageously angry brother Jack Flan (Jack Hamblin) stomps up. Michael died in an accident but since she came all this way, Jack will do her a favor, cart her home and “go ahead and marry her.”
A few minutes later, William Curtis (Rick Wright) arrives to take Macon home. Black patch covering a missing eye from a coal-mining accident, William is neither handsome nor ugly. He’s a gentle, plain, kind, hardworking widower, not what Macon wanted. Confiding in her “best and only friend” Bess shortly after they’re married, Macon admits, “I hate to criticize but I’m allergic to him … physically.”
Thus begins their life in a young, growing territory. In two acts/19 scenes, we see the young, naïve girls grow into women experiencing an abundance of emotional, physical and financial adventures. In fact, abundance of any kind proves to be fleeting, except the length of the show — almost three hours. Still, though it could be tightened a bit, director Michael Kelley delivers a fascinating look at a historical period of time.
Over the years, the women’s fortunes are determined by the craziness of a new country and that fickle finger of fate. Married the same day, they celebrate anniversaries together, but their lives are very different. Bess lives in a shack with wooden crate table and chairs and a mattress on the floor, until Jack, in a rage, burns it down. Macon lives in a lovely home, prospering with the hardworking William.
However, when Bess is kidnapped by Indians and the railroad changes its plan, both couples’ fortunes are turned upside down with surprising results.
McBain goes from a young, optimistic, confident young woman, to a bitter, angry wife to her final desperate life with honest, energy and passion. Trowbridge is equally good transforming herself from a beaten, spirit-broken, abused young wife to a tough, hardened woman.
The men are also good. Wright’s Curtis is a humble, yet giving man who believes the best present he could give his wife is a fake eye so she will find him attractive. And Hamblin, is amazingly evil. Having seen his comedic talent, he is frighteningly angry, displaying a snarl that could peel wallpaper.
Though a bit of a soap opera, the show is an interesting look at young America and perhaps one of many brave stories that eventually built this country.