On Friday night, the cast of Downrange looked crestfallen and director Deb Royals said she was "flabbergasted" as a theatrical fiasco unfolded, following the region's first staged reading of Mike Wiley's drama based on the untold stories of military families at Fort Bragg. Afterward, Raleigh Little Theatre artistic director Patrick Torres apologized to the actors, the director, and the audience—the company had unwittingly performed an early draft instead of the final version. It then fell to Wiley to delineate the systemic changes he'd made since the 2015 draft, which predated a Process Series workshop in Chapel Hill and a Cape Fear Regional Theatre premiere. He provided a candid, knowledgeable critique of a text he had not intended to place before the public.
Despite structural and editing problems, the draft effectively evoked the commitment that binds military families as well as the stress of a spouse's deployment. Standout performances by Juanda Holley and Joseph Callender, both of whom have served in the military, provided bedrock authenticity to the lives of a seasoned army wife and a husband raising a daughter while his wife is stationed overseas. Elsewhere, though, under-rehearsed actors of mixed abilities made more eye contact with their scripts than with us, occasionally lost their places mid-monologue, and mumbled through scenes that dragged. RLT will produce a staged reading of the correct version in early July. Here's hoping its cast is better prepared to take it on when it does.