There are three things you can expect from any Naomi Wallace play: poetry, politics and, dramatically speaking, plodding action. “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek,” the playwright’s somber examination of emerging love between two teenagers in 1936 rural Appalachia, is no different. The dialogue is soaked in symbolism and boasts beautifully descriptive imagery, the interpersonal dynamics of the central characters echo the ebb and flow of the weary American psyche circa Depression-era U.S. history and for all the talk of trestles and trains—an obvious symbol of escape from unbearable small-town tedium—the characters are physically and spiritually immobile. Despite these dramaturgical hurdles, director D.B. Schroeder and his Thunder and Lightening Ensemble actors have taken Wallace’s largely arid script and turned out a beautifully observed production, imbued with moments of unexpected grace and committed performances that ultimately make you care as much as the writing makes you think. The physical design adds to this impression with finely detailed costumes that contribute to the play’s antiquated yet historically accurate feel, stark lighting that heightens the play’s grim mood and a cinematic staging that elegantly links the play’s numerous episodes. In the end, however, it’s the strong ensemble acting that drives the production, keeps this Depression-era drama from becoming depressing to watch and makes “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” easily Thunder and Lightning Ensemble’s most mature and fully realized production to date. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” runs at the Trapdoor Theater, 1655 West Courtland, (773)332-9939, through July 22. $10-$15.