Playwright Scott Schwartz's compelling adaptation of the Willa Cather novel clocks in at nearly three hours, but the work's elegant sprawl allows us to become fully immersed in Cather's powerful and nuanced elegy to the nature of memory. Set in 1910, the story's point of view is provided by middle-aged lawyer James Burden (Kevin Kilner), who, on a cross-country train journey, ponders his long-lost youth. His mind drifts to events narrated in flashback. As a young man, Jim (played by Michael Redfield) falls in love with Antonia (Shiva Rose), a beautiful Eastern European immigrant whose family moves to Nebraska's wide prairies in search of a better life. Jim's attempts to help Antonia and her family never quite work out, and Antonia can be said to drift from one disaster to the next. Although director Schwartz's production occasionally suffers from lackadaisical pacing, the work's intimacy and a strong ensemble craft an experience that's as passionate and as personal as the memory of young love. Redfield's turn as the innocent version of Burden's older, sadder self is particularly powerful while Rose's beautifully inscrutable Antonia subtly shifts from naive waif to brittle, middle-aged peasant woman. Nice turns are also offered by Julia Motyka, seductive and playful as the "other woman" in Jim's life, and by Karen Landry and Robert Lesser, as Jim's salt-of-the-earth guardians.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thu., July 3, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 31, 8 p.m. Starts: June 28. Continues through Aug. 24, 2008