As the men in these women's lives, Howard and Packard also pose an excellent contrast. In Howard's quietly stellar performance, the pathos of William's rumpled dignity is subtle, funny, and softly heart-breaking — watch him meekly close his mouth and look down as his wife laughs too hard with Jack; listen for the so modest yet so wrenching desire in his voice as he tells his wife, "You have a nice way of pouring a drink." Packard's strapping good looks and forceful gaze give his Jack a visceral sexuality that Macon sure isn't getting from William, and his Jack insults Bess with a chillingly matter-of-fact bluntness. I wanted, though, more of a sense of Jack's latent menace, the viciousness and violence waiting just beneath the lout's half-assed passes at civility.

Over the course of these characters' lives, Henley's bracing and entertaining script raises many of the big ideas of the conversation about the American character — wilderness and civilization, identity and the Other (Native Americans play interestingly into several twists in the plot), the myth of limitlessness — and its turns are rife with interesting ironies. But Henley's synthesis of them is elusive. What the turns add up to thematically — what they say about America's legendarily abundant soul — remains unsettled territory. ^

ABUNDANCE | By Beth Henley | Directed by Dana Packard | Produced by The Originals, At the Saco River Grange Hall, In Bar Mills | Through May 5 | 207.929.5412

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