By Tom DeMars and Paige Allison
Just south of I-80, off of Hwy 50, only 45 minutes from Lincoln is one of Nebraska’s hidden gems: the Lofte Theatre, home to the Born in a Barn Players. The Lofte has been providing community theater since the 1970’s and this was to have been its 200th show. Due to pandemic alterations to ….well, everyone’s lives… it is actually the 197th production at the Lofte. Inside the large theater you will experience a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. The snack bar serves a variety of fare from popcorn, parfaits, sushi, veggies and dip – to the show-specific referenced Yetta’s Lemon Meringue Pie (which is quite good. We highly recommend it!) The stage is large and the seats are comfortable and the show is compelling.
The actors that carry the show are brilliantly cast. Bill Bossman plays the title character. Although a very talented veteran of many productions across the Midwest, Bossman makes his debut as a Born in a BARN Player (Bringing Arts to Rural Nebraska). The handsome Ross Mumford plays Mr Green’s sole visitor. Mumford is an Elmwood/Murdock native and has shared his talents with the Lofte since the age of 13.
Visiting Mr. Green is directed by Kevin Colbert and the set is designed by Colbert and scenic artist Jon Kruse. It is a beautiful set, a realistic living room appearing to have been frozen in time. It captures the essence of the 86 year old widower, Mr. Green. As this two-man show opens, Mr. Green (Bossman) answers the door to an emphatic Ross Gardiner (Mumford). The 30 year old Gardiner, clearly of a contemporary generation, and Green are forced into a unique interaction as it is quickly revealed that Gardiner is at Green’s home to complete his court ordered community service. The odd pair are at odds with one another from the start. As Gardiner is obligated to see Mr. Green and help around his home each Thursday for six months, the two cannot help but become acquainted.
The relationship develops slowly in act one, and by the second act the revelations and genuine affection for one another grows. This isn’t just a story of two men from generations twice removed, although that adds an element of interest. In discovering one another’s commonalities they find comfort and conflict with one another in discovering their differences… differences that can break family bonds and stress the ties of friendships. Each man has his own secrets and demons and in coming to accept their own, they learn to accept each other’s.
Mumford’s passion in his role is intense. One cannot help but to connect with his feelings of being ostracized and his personal struggles. Bossman’s often mumbling and bumbling Green is endearing and one must feel an affection for his character in spite of his deeply held belief system. Both actors deliver a well timed retort here and there to break the tension between them and to make their respective points. Their character’s ideologies collide from two vastly incongruent perspectives which they find in the end… are not really so misaligned. They can eventually agree to offer one another acceptance.
There will be no spoilers here but the program itself notes that this show is PG-13 for the nature of the issues it explores. The subject matter will challenge the audience member’s conscious and subconscious biases. However, should you take your family, it may prompt discussion of compassion, acceptance and healing; far greater issues than those some may consider “controversial” in this day and age. The message of the show is thought provoking, sometimes chilling, heart wrenching and ultimately, a commentary on forgiveness, grace and change of the human heart. Visiting Mr. Green is dedicated to anti-discrimination and the LGBTQ+ community
If you go: Visiting Mr. Green runs May 6-15 Thursday-Saturday 7PM, and Sundays at 2PM. Tickets are $24 for general seating. Visit https://www.lofte.org or call the box office at 402-234-2553 and program your GPS for 15841 Manley Road in Manley, Nebraska. Look for the big red barn.
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