If “Floyd Collins” and “Stand By Me” joined forces, the results might resemble “The Burnt Part Boys” at Third Street Theatre. Mariana Elder, Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen’s chamber tuner about the lingering legacy of a West Virginia mining disaster receives an impressive West Coast premiere.
The title of this co-production with West Coast Ensemble refers to the mountain location where, 10 years prior to the tale's 1962 setting, a cave-in and fire killed several miners. Among them the fathers of 18-year-old Jake (Aaron Scheff) and pal Chet (Joe Donohoe), now about to join the town’s sole industry of consequence.
Until 14-year-old Pete (Daniel David Stewart), Jake’s kid brother, learns that the mine is reopening. Enlisting fellow John Wayne fan Dusty (Adam Dingeman), Pete takes off with stolen dynamite to seal the entrance to what he regards as his father’s shrine, with Jake and Chet in reluctant pursuit.
There’s much to admire in director Richard Israel’s assured staging, in tandem with a fine design team and a fervent cast. All four boys are appealing of voice and person, with Dingeman a scene-stealing find.
So is Lauren Patten as Frances, the feisty tomboy who becomes Pete and Dusty’s mountain guide, and the spectral dads -- Matt Musgrove, Philip Dean Lightstone, Richard Hellstern and Rich Brunner -- are stalwart, with Musgrove’s turns as Pete’s fantasy father figures particularly choice.
Rather less so, despite Israel’s and musical director Gregory Nabours’ attention to regional attitudes and bluegrass detail, is the property. Elder’s book is sincerely intelligent yet short on narrative event until the climax, while a repetitive sameness overtakes Miller and Tysen’s attractive folk-flavored score.
Still, these “Boys” certainly offer an original, family-friendly parable. Hallmark Channel viewers should reserve immediately.
“The Burnt Part Boys,” Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. 3rd St., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 20. $29 and $34. (323) 655-9232 or www.thirdstreettheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun