A Report on the Reading of ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Cherry Lane Theatre

Patience Malarkey was alive and kicking and under the new direction of award winning Director Larry Moss, at the January 24th industry reading of Breathing Under Dirt at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. If I raved them for their Maryland premiere, well pardon me, this production had room to grow and has burst forth with vigor and fresh air.

The seats were filled to capacity with invitation only producers and industry talent from both coasts. There was no hesitancy for both knee slapping laughs and genuine tears as the story wound its way through pain and promise.

Cynthia Watros continues in the role of Patience and superbly pulled us into her extreme desperation; grasping and gasping to find herself in the cobwebs of her own realities. Moss’ direction was immediately apparent from the very first scene. The performances exploded into new layers with gripping freshness, raw emotion, grittiness and southern authenticity.

The cast and creative team of Breathing Under Dirt. Left to Right: Alana Troxell, Katie Branden, Robert Bogue, Playwright Michael O’Leary, Director Larry Moss, Cynthia Watros, Tina Sloan, and Kisha Jackson. Photo by Sue Coflin/Max Photos.

New to the cast was Robert Bogue who delivered an overpowering intellectual style of intimidation in the role of John. I found myself recalling nightmares from which I could not awake or escape. Deeply dark with sensual tension, Bogue’s performance was akin to an invitation to a dance you know you might not come back from, but you’re drawn to just the same.

One area in which I had hoped to see more attention given was to expand and develop the complex character of Grace, played by Tina Sloan. In addition to a few script changes, Sloan must have changed into a new pair of shoes for Grace because she came alive and revealed to us more of her fears, challenges and pent up emotions. This provided a good working canvas of energy for Watros to play with and brought both characters to new heights.

Chuck Elbert, skillfully played by the playwright himself Michael O’Leary, was impressive as the church elder ‘preacher wannabe’ who craves the power of tending his flock. His comedic exuberance to control his sinners and lift his voice to proclaim hate for the sin, (but very obvious love for the sinner), balanced the rhythm of the oft painful and shocking revelations.

A devilish little Lucy, or ‘Lucifer’ as she prefers, played by Maryland native Alana Troxell might make you want to cut your own switch and take off after her as she flees the stage after behaving ever so badly. Troxell also delightfully played the role of Lynn with sparkling emotion.

Credit is due to playwright Michael O’Leary who has obviously continued to develop the script. But, the profound influence of accomplished director Larry Moss was evident, providing a melody to the world penned by O’Leary. Moss certainly breathed new life into this promising work.

The staged reading showed the story isn’t reliant on the missing elements of a fully staged production, but actually stands quite strongly on its own. This is the purpose of and a lesson for anyone attempting effective staged readings. Breathing Under Dirt continues to evolve and I believe merits further development and full production.

What does Patience want and why can’t she get it? The answer will blow you away in this gritty, sexy dance down the painful path to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Breathing Under Dirt staged an industry only reading on January 24, 2017 at 11:30 AM at Cherry Lane Theatre – 38 Commerce Street, in New York, New York.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Lower Shore Performing Arts Company: Part 1: Playwright Michael O’Leary.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Lower Shore Performing Arts Company: Part 2: Director Grant Aleksander by Cynthia Bledsoe.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Lower Shore Performing Arts Company: Part 3: Actors Robert Forester and Tina Sloan.

Review: ‘Breathing Under Dirt’ at Lower Shore Performing Arts Company


  1. Wow! What a stage reading review written by Cynthia Bledsoe. Her expertise choice of words is descriptive beyond anyone! Reading her review pulls you right into the play setting with anticipation to read more
    Excellent work!


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