In Some Dark Valley: The Testament of Reverend Brand – A Brilliant Ballard of the Spiritually Blinded

By Ernest Kearney — The dark wooden canopy of the Appalachia Valley, known as The Great Valley, shrouds a deep and massive scar that cuts across the eastern landscape of America.  As the titular character In Some Dark Valley: The Testament of Reverend Brand, Writer/Performer Robert Bailey succeeds from his first moment on stage in capturing that unknown terror which the vastness of wilderness has held for humanity from Oedipus and Dante to Dorothy and The Evil Dead.    

Man’s ability to have unwavering faith in what is beyond his senses to affirm is one of life’s great mysteries.  Another is his capacity to lose that faith.  There are echoes of this in the story Robert Bailey shares with his audience; that of a man confident of the divinity within himself who is then destroyed by that deception. 

Bailey commands the elongated stage of the Madnani masterfully, with a robust physical presence while he envelopes the theatai in the essence of postbellum America through his sincere singing of hymns from the period.

What most impressed me about In Some Dark Valley was how Bailey, through the enfolding of his language, succeeded in conveying the preeminence of the spoken word held in the nineteenth century. 

It is hard for our modern sensibilities to perceive the power that words once possessed.  Language has been weakened today by our visualization of it.  There are few places in the twenty-first century where one can walk without being awashed in the representations of words; digital billboards, towering print advertisements, flashing neon signs, and typographical logos converting words into art. 

In the nineteenth century, words had power through their purity and their potency was undiluted.  The demarcation point for this change can be found in the comparison of two short turns of phrases; Today, we go “to see a play.”   But, from the time of the ancient Greek stage until only the last century, theatergoers went to “hear a play.”

Bailey captures the period’s respect for language through his characters’ usage.  They choose their words carefully to communicate their thoughts with clarity; as when Agnes, the Reverend’s young wife, seeks to warn her husband of his faltering faith, “You bruise where you oughta caress.”

Or when Brand realizes what his failure to live his belief has brought him to, “a loneliness so deep it didn’t have no depth.” 

As directed by Billy Siegenfeld and produced by Cori Allison, Robert Bailey’s In Some Dark Valley: The Testament of Reverend Brand has but one flaw that I could see; it was limited to only three performances thus denying more Fringe audiences the opportunity of experiencing this exceptional and exquisite work.


In Some Dark Alley: The Testament of Reverend Brand

Playing during Hollywood Fringe Festival 2024

Sunday June 16 2024, 2:00 PM | 65 mins


The Madnani Theater (Main Space)

6760 Lexington Ave

Ernest Kearney - author


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 and Follow him on Facebook.

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