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T. Charles Erickson
Kate Burton in The Corn is Green at the Huntington Theatre Company. Playing now through February 8 at the B.U. Theatre, the Huntington’s mainstage.
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The Corn is Green

Huntington Theatre Company

Directed by Nicholas Martin

January 9 — February 8, 2009

Huntington Theatre

Lights come up. Welsh hymns slowly fill the air. Actor scurry about stage. The modern day is left at the doorstep and nineteenth-century Wales comes to the fore.

Emlyn Williams’ The Corn is Green is, if nothing else, a beautiful portrait of a bygone age, an idyllic lifestyle. The photograph is bittersweet, though: Williams is quick to balance the Romanticism of the simple life with the harsh reality of turn-of-the-century impoverished mining village life. The mixture is heart-rending.

The play opens with Miss Moffat’s arrival in the small town of Glansarno. Miss Moffat comes to set up a school for the children of Glansarno, but her primary student — and the object of the performance ­— is Morgan Evans. Boy, both an orphan and a hooligan, the young Welsh mining boy is not without talent. Moffat, following an assignment to write about one’s “perfect holiday”, reads in Morgan’s composition book:

So the mine is dark … But when I walk through the Tan — something — shaft, in the dark, I can touch with my hands the leaves on the trees, and underneath … where the corn is green … There is a wind in the shaft, not carbon monoxide they talk about, it smell like the sea, only like as if the sea had fresh flowers lying about … and that is my holiday.

Morgan, Miss Moffat and the inhabitants of Glansarno are all lines in a greater ode to the land, the people of Wales and, above all, a reaffirmation in the common man: the beauty individuals are capable of imagining and, with a little push, creating. For Morgan Evans, Miss Moffat is that pushher struggle and his come together, giving the once illiterate Evans a chance to pull himself up over social barriers and perhaps pave the way for others to come.

Moffat, as played by the seasoned actress Kate Burton, is a headstrong, wealthy old spinster, with both vision and fire. While her behavior does not appear shocking today, her independence (given that she is a woman) butts up against the expectations of the much more conservative inhabitants. Kate Burton’s performance itself is brilliantshe capture’s Moffat’s fire, her independence, but equally her motherliness and the conflict between the two. Burton’s charisma on stage captivates the audience as much as Glansarno and her performance is the linchpin for the success of the play.

The performance is rounded out by evocative performances by Burton’s son, Morgan Ritchie (Morgan Evans), Roderick McLachlan (John Goronwy Jones), Kathy McCafferty (Miss Ronberry), Mary Faber (Bessie Watty), and Kristine Nielsen (Mrs. Watty), as well as brilliant technical aspects, all overseen by director Nicholas Martin.

The Corn is Green will run at Huntington Theatre through February 8. Tickets available online at www.huntingtontheatre.org and in person at the B.U. Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Avenue, or at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

$5 senior and military discounts. $20 back row of the balcony (limited availability) and $15 student rush seats (available two hours before curtain time for each performance). $25 “35 Below” tickets for patrons 35 years and younger (valid I.D. required).