The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by David Allen

Playwright Naomi Wallace is intrigued by the possibilities in moments of crisis. In The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek she blends the story of teenage frustrations, growing up in a small Southern town, with grown up frustrations of being out of work during the Great Depression. Though these are subjects that have been explored by many American playwrights and novelists, Wallace writes fresh dialogue that is both true to the characters and poetic at the same time. While the drama is interesting enough, it is the poetic undercurrent loaded with metaphor, which adds a dimension to her drama.

Directed by Aurora Theatre Company’s Soren Oliver, with excellent performances by the entire cast, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek is an interesting night of theatre but may not be for everyone. Though there are some very comic moments in the play, they are basically comic relief for a very dark story about characters caught up in a consuming hopelessness.

Of course hopelessness was the fate of many Americans during the depression, but the problem with Wallace’s rendition is she has two guns that don’t really go off. One is a real gun that the out of work father tries to use in committing suicide or in trying to get his wife to help him commit suicide. The other gun is a train that the two teenagers in this production flirt with. They talk about running a train trestle right in front of the oncoming train. It is a youthful flirtation with death, which provides some excitement in their small town lives. But for the most part it remains a flirtation.

While there is a lot of thought provoking ideas brought up through the poetry of dialogue, nothing ever feels resolved. The entire play is similar to the sexual relationship that develops between Pace and Dalton, the two teenagers in the drama. This sexual relationship is essentially masturbatory and full of the frustrations equated with masturbation.

Perhaps Wallace was deliberately trying to make the audience feel this frustration, because it would give them some sense of what the Americans felt that lived through the Great Depression. If so, she succeeded, but for those who prefer to be uplifted by a theatre experience, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek may not be for you.

As always Aurora Theatre provides a drama that will keep you thinking long after you leave the theatre. Two Aurora favorites, Jessica Powell (Gin Chance) and Jack Powell (Chas Weaver) complement a great cast including Jennifer Wagner (Pace Creagan), Ian Jurcso (Dalton Chance) and Don Reeves Hiatt (Dray Chance). For tickets or more information call (510) 843-4822 or visit

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