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Killer Angels
Bar Harbor
Saturday, rickthefightguy and tamarinne took me out to see Lifeline Theatre's production of The Killer Angels. It's an adaptation of the Michael Shaara novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. A powerful story, powerfully told.

The fairly small cast included a lot of doubling, but the actors were all skilled enough that this never resulted in confusion. This was helped by the use of differing regional accents which, while not perfect, were good at implicitly creating sub-groups of related (and distinct) characters.

I love Lifeline Theatre. I've never seen a show there that was less than excellent. I hope they continue successfully for many, many years to come. That said, I hope they are never *too* successful. They're a perfect demonstration of the creativity that comes from the constraints of limited space and a limited budget.

For example, the way that they depict Picket's Charge. This was the last major action of the battle. Quoting wikipedia: "Approximately 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades advanced over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some Confederates were able to breach the low stone wall that shielded many of the Union defenders, they could not maintain their hold and were repulsed with over 50% casualties, a decisive defeat that ended the three-day battle" So how on earth do you evoke that on stage? Here's what they did. That confederate force was represented by six actors in gray uniforms, marching implacably forward (in place). They are in two rows of three, and only the front three have rifles. Behind the back row is a clothes rack full of Confederate army jackets. The sound design fills the air with artillery and rifle fire. A particularly loud shot rings out; one of the soldiers in the front rank hands off his rifle to the man behind him, takes off his jacket, and drops it to the ground (representing his corpse). As the actor behind steps up, the 'dead' actor circles round, takes a coat from the rack to put on, then fills the open place in the rear rank. All this happens in less time than it takes to tell. Another shot rings out; another soldier falls. And another. And another. Then two at once. Then another singleton. Then another pair. The shots come closer and closer together. The clothes rack at the back gets sparser and sparser. As the horrible progression continues, some of the soldier/actors, after dropping their jackets, just go off and don't return at all. The retreat is sounded after just a few minutes, but it *feels* like you've just seen hours of Hell.

The show has been extended to November 24th, so if you're in the rare category of someone reading this, who can get to Lifeline in Chicago, and you *haven't* already seen this, I Highly Recommend it.

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I actually thought that the counter-charge on Little Round-Top was even more effective, although I understand that it was less historically important; even so, both Shaara and Lifeline managed to thoroughly humanize that moment, in a way that does more to tell the story of Gettysburg, to my mind, than anything else I have seen nor can imagine.

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