Laura Jo Schuster
4/18/2013 3:49 PM
By all accounts, Matt Williams is an accomplished man, with numerous film and television credits ("Where the Heart Is," "Rosanne," "Home Improvement"). "Between Daylight and Boonville" takes a look at the lower-middle-class through the lens of three dissatisfied housewives. Their breadwinner husbands work in the dangerous business of coal-mining, leaving the ladies alone most days to discuss their tabloid magazines and keep each other company. The dialogue is right on target, picking up Indiana-isms and turning phrases in a way that really brings the characters to life. Southern Indiana is a tricky region to portray (luckily, Williams is a native). The attitude is southern but with Midwestern practicality; the accent is twangy but lacks the rolling lilt of the Deep South. "Between Daylight and Boonville" sets the scene to a tee with dialogue, character descriptions, and scene design suggestions.
That said, the drama of the play is all too predictable: trouble at the coal mine, a cheating husband revealed, friendships and lives forever changed. The character relationships are interesting enough without so many outside events. Carla's struggle to find herself gets lost in Big Jim's affair and the aftereffects of the mine explosion. Her decision to stay is anticlimactic and disappointing. Perhaps the more dynamic choice is to cut the mine explosion and have these women confront their lives (and husbands), but that isn't the play Williams wrote. Plot line aside, the play is an accurate representation of Southern Indiana that treats stereotypes carefully: while there is a pregnant, barefoot trailer park housewife, she avoids caricature throughout the play.
Technically this play is simple to produce since there are no set changes and no major costume changes. It borders on inappropriate for high school but is a great character study for college students. Though originally produced in 1980 it is easily adaptable to modern-day, with very few references that date it. While the characters and dialogue stay true to Williams' nuanced writing style, the plot falls flat and borders on melodramatic.