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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Red Stitch Theatre) - 135 minutes plus 20 minute interval

Catholic guilt and US conservative politics are given a whack in the Australian premiere of Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning.

The play was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It is late at night in Wyoming. Seven years after they graduated from a small Catholic college former students have gathered at an after party .

They have returned to celebrate the elevation of their mentor Dr Gina Presson (Margaret Mills). She has just been inducted as College president.

Photos by Jodie Hutchinson

Most ex-students have now left the get together, but four remain.

Each of them has their issues. In short, they are all messed up in some way and are trying to chart a path forward.

Kevin (Darcy Kent) is decidedly under the weather. He has drunk far too much whiskey. He is angst riddled and bemoans how pathetic he is. He appears largely friendless, spends too much time online and desperately wants a girlfriend. Kevin also seeks answers to serious religious questions.

Justin (Charlie Cousins) is much older than the rest. He is now 38 and the shindig is at his place. He was seriously spooked after he shot an animal earlier that morning. Justin has had a troubled past. Now he’s written a short story for children to try to explain the power of God.

Emily (Mollie Mooney) is Gina’s daughter and afflicted by pain, which has left her all but bedridden lately. She walks with the aid of cane. Well-meaning and caring, she is prone to being overwhelmed. Kevin has a romantic interest in her.

Teresa (Annie Shapero) is an intellectual who always speaks her mind and does so at the rate of knots. She has a “my way or the highway” approach to life. While a student, she faced being expelled for a sexual relationship. Now she writes for a right-wing publication and is engaged to be married.

The play’s title refers to an American prophecy concerning life cycles, whereby the past will inform the future.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning is word heavy. There is a lot thrown at us and an understanding of US politics would be a decided advantage.

Beyond that, much of the conversation is centred around religion and feelings of inadequacy overlaid with political bias.

It was informed by the playwright’s own upbringing. Will Arbery was raised by Catholic conservative academics who taught at a school in Wyoming, similar to the one in the play.

The performances are first rate. All impress.

Darcy Kent milks every skerrick of self-loathing out of his representation of dweeb Kevin.

Charlie Cousins is solid as the man who has worked through a great deal.

Mollie Mooney displays vulnerability and empathy as Emily.

Annie Shapero dazzles as the arrogant voice of outrage, Teresa.

Margaret Mills appears late in the piece and makes her mark as the respected professor who provided direction that is now being challenged.

A simple set reveals the outside of an old wooden home with a chair and a couple of logs.

Although powerful, insightful and very well acted, Heroes of the Fourth Turning won’t suit all tastes.

I appreciated it, but I dare say some will find the patter too wearing and a tad circular.

It is also longer than it needs to be at two and a quarter hours, excluding interval.

Still, I was left with the unmistakable feeling that religion and politics have a lot to answer for.

Directed by Emily O’Brien-Brown, Heroes of the Fourth Turning is playing at Red Stitch Theatre until 10th April, 2022.


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