Brian Foyster deserves congratulations for adapting and performing John Knowles' 1959 minor classic, A Separate Peace, now at the Connelly Theater, so extremely well. What comes through in this multi-character solo show is that Foyster possesses an unmistakable empathetic appreciation for Knowles' heartbreaking story.
Told by the now 30-something Gene Forrester on returning to his staid New England prep school, the tale recounts Gene's complex friendship 15 years earlier (in 1942) with Phineas, one of those golden boys who so frequently crop up in fiction. Finny (as he's called) is not only a natural athlete, but a natural at everything to which he turns his hand and the rest of his supple physique -- if not his studies.
Finny is such a happily guileless young man that his impermeable affect begins to gnaw at Gene. Ultimately, Gene's conflicted feelings towards his roommate and best friend lead him to commit an irreversible unpremeditated act on the long and treacherous branch of a landmark campus tree from which they both leap daily as a show of derring-do.
Under Jason McConnell Buzas' fine and never-frenzied direction, Foyster brings the profound yet muted emotion needed to illustrate this still-moving tale -- which continues to gain fans more than 50 years after its publication. Indeed, as good as the show is, it is a worthy supplementary offering to the novel, rather than a substitution.
-- David Finkle