The Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘Kerrmoor’ at The Interrobang Theatre Company and The Strand Theater Company

Three women, bound by blood and tradition. One community in dire straits. And a centuries old rite that can mend all ills. Kerrmoor, written by Susan McCully and directed by Eve Muson, takes us deep into the dark and insular culture of Appalachia, crafting a story that is fraught with fears, regrets, and magic.

L to R: Susan McCully (Agatha) and Katie Hileman (Lorna). Photo by Kiirstin Pagan.
L to R: Susan McCully (Agatha) and Katie Hileman (Lorna). Photo by Kiirstin Pagan.

The town of Kerrmoor is in trouble. The water’s gone bad, the people are struggling, and government men are poking around where no one wants them. But young Kylie has had a vision of Mona Kerr. The time has come to perform the Rite. It’s the only answer. But in order for the Rite of Kerrmoor to work, they need Agatha, the woman who failed to do her part as “the chose” years before. And Agatha wants no part of the Rite or of Kerrmoor. Until she learns that her daughter, Lorna, is the new “chose.”

All three actresses give captivating performances. Playwright Susan McCully stars as Agatha, a woman with a painful and complicated past. McCully’s Agatha is rough around the edges, but sympathetic. Life isn’t easy for a woman who’s shirked her responsibility, and Agatha has suffered for not completing the Rite before. She wants to save her daughter from the Rite and the past, and from Kerrmoor – a community where nothing is forgotten or forgiven. McCully wears her role like a second skin. She wrote this character and knows exactly how to make Agatha and her pain real.

Katie Hileman plays Lorna, this generations’ Chose. She carries the troubles of the community willingly, eager to atone for their sins and to do what she can to save this tiny town that is her world. Hileman’s fanatical fervor is intense, drawing the audience deeper into the culture of Kerrmoor and luring us into believing the Rite could be real. Hileman gives an exciting and engaging performance, tearing back the layers of Lorna’s motivation to become one of Mona’s Daughters.

Erin Hanratty plays Kylie, Lorna’s younger half-sister and the new oracle. Through her eyes, the audience sees all the factors at play in the Rite, both magic and mundane. Hanratty’s Kylie isn’t innocent, but her naivety is close enough. Regardless of what she has or hasn’t done,  the full consequences don’t hit her until she’s with Lorna and Agatha, and the horror of her realization is heart wrenching.

Over the course of an hour, Agatha, Lorna, and Kylie strip themselves bare of all facades until we see them as they are. The transformations are beautiful and painful. Whatever its intended purpose, there is more at stake in the performing of the Rite than the fate of Kerrmoor.

(L to R) Katie Hileman (Lorna), Erin Hanratty (Kylie), and Susan McCully (Agatha). Photo by Kiirstin Pagan.
(L to R) Katie Hileman (Lorna), Erin Hanratty (Kylie), and Susan McCully (Agatha). Photo by Kiirstin Pagan.

Gregg Schraven’s set is simple. Wooden slats mimic the paneling of a cabin or shed, a trunk rests in one corner, and a table and four chairs move around the stage as needed. The set is dressed in neutral colors; on one hand, this echoes the sense of drab existence felt by Agatha. On the other hand, the monochrome color palette makes a great canvas to pick up the colorful lighting. Designed by Adam Mendelson, the lighting is expressive and partners well with Jeffrey Dorfman’s sound design to create more characters and submerge the audience in the oppressive atmosphere of magic and fanaticism.

Linda Dusman has composed a small soundtrack for the play, with musicians and a chorus who sings “The Ballad of Mona Kerr” throughout the play, in accordance with the Rite. Christian Bell choreographed the fight at the climax of the play, which is made all the more dramatic by Lorna’s final costume, designed by Eric Abele.

Kerrmoor is a potent, haunting play; part love letter, part Dear John missive to the past and a place and to the people who remain stuck in both. Kerrmoor is being co-produced by The Interrobang Theatre Company and The Strand Theatre Company for both the Women’s Voices Theater Festival and Charm City Fringe.

Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission.

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Kerrmoor is playing through November 15, 2015 at The Interrobang Theatre Company and The Strand Theater Company performing at Emmanuel Episcopal Church – 811 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore MD. Tickets can be purchased online.

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