BC Caldwell’s ‘One Way Ticket To Oregon’ — A Journey Worth Taking 

By Ernest Kearney BC Caldwell’s One Way Ticket to Oregon takes a theatrical setting that is familiar; one could almost say exasperatingly so — and then, to his credit, executes a graceful aerial cartwheel and turns us about in a direction hardly expected.

Set in Alexandria, a town buried in the center of the state of Louisiana, where the landscape is dotted by Baptist churches (the way the Los Angeles landscape is by Starbucks), Caldwell’s tale focuses on the relationship of two women: Leigh (Eve Sigall) the matriarch of the Rainey family, one of the last vestiges of the old southern landed gentry and June (Synthia L. Hardy) her longtime caretaker and friend. Most of the scenes take place on the veranda of the Rainey’s manor, known as the White House.

Now if I were trying to read the message behind the lines in Caldwell’s drama, I would begin a commentary on the emerging of the new “New South” and go off on a tirade about how the changing demographics of generational decline in flux with the new mobility towards centers of urbanization are transforming one of the nation’s most rigid regional cultures.

It would be very interesting, I assure you.

And it would likely also be completely wrong.

I don’t feel Caldwell is concerned with doing anything other than telling a good story.

In the program notes, Caldwell tells us that the piece was inspired by a beloved family member’s struggle with cancer, and that experience no doubt accounts for both the sincerity and tenderness that imbues his writing.

At the play’s beginning, Leigh is beset by illness, and June is committed to keeping her ailing friend’s spirits up, even to the point of arranging to purchase marijuana from her nephew Andre (Matt Jennings) to help Leigh’s appetite.

But finally Leigh is informed by her doctor (Rick Steadman) of the ending that awaits, an ending that will come only after an indeterminate period of prolonged and increasing suffering. Leigh is resolved not to finish her days in some hospital “with their beeping instruments,” nor does she wish to devastate her departure by needless agony.

To achieve both those ends she sees a single course, a one-way ticket to Oregon, a state that offers the terminally ill the option of death with dignity whereby they can choose to bring their lives to a close, voluntarily.

But Leigh’s choice involves others. There’s her son Bobby (Travis Goodman), his wife Eve (Kate Krieger) whose ambition is to become a “hand model,” and there is her beloved grandson Duke (Ethan Aldridge).

Complicating matters is the fact that her husband died by his own hand when Bobby was still a boy, an act that traumatized the young child. Leigh’s choice also threatens another special relationship, the one she has with her God.

Leigh goes to her pastor (Carl Weintraub), hoping to find compassion and understanding. In this she is disappointed.

One Way Ticket to Oregon is an engagingly human work full of great merit, and one which has also been blessed with an elegantly crafted production and a first-rate cast.

Eve Sigall is well known to L.A. audiences and greatly respected by those who make up its theater community. Her work here only validates that respect.

Synthia L. Hardy came late to the production, replacing the original “June” whose agent found her film work.

That said it is difficult to imagine anyone who could have brought more depth of sincerity or a greater humanity to the role than Hardy. She and Sigall excel.

As does Weintraub, who’s Father Brooks does a disservice to the Nazarene’s teachings by his service to Jehovah’s laws.

Goodman, Krieger and Jennings’ performances are solidly commendable, and Steadman shows what talent and professionalism can do with ,two lesser parts that a lesser actor would simply dismiss as “thankless.”

Young Aldridge, in his stage debut, is quite good. (But stay in school, kid!)

JJ Mayes’ adroit direction shows proficiency gilded with intelligence.

Joyce Hutter’s set is as fine a piece of work as you’re likely see on any L.A. stage, equity-waver or otherwise, and Douglas Gabrielle’s light design combined with Jaime Robledo’s sound work are deserving of high praise.

Caldwell has done excellent character work here, his dialogue is believable and engaging, and his story is compelling. The only flaw with the work is slight but, unfortunately, impactful. It seems in his effort to structure and convey the truthfulness of this piece, he has overlooked half of play writing’s most basic rule: “Start Late, End Early.”

The latter part of that maxim he’s dealt with fine, it is that first portion where the trouble lies. Despite where Caldwell has decided to open his story, the play doesn’t really begin until the final scene of the first act.

The audience will find the second act worth the wait, but Caldwell should still give this observation of mine some consideration, as it would make a good play all that much better.

* * *

One Way Ticket to Oregon

playing at The Blue Door,
Theatrical Home of ArtsUP! LA

April 8 – 30, 2022
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm; Sundays @ 3pm; Mondays @ 7pm

The Blue Door
9617 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

PUBLIC RSVP: Tickets are available online at onewaytickettooregon.com

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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