Book of Days

Rated 4.0

The traditional Book of Days is a calendar that lists saints’ days, special prayers and reminders of times for religious obligation. In Lanford Wilson’s play of that name, it is a device for compressing a season or two of a town’s life into two acts. Deep in the reddest of red-states Missouri, a small-town bookkeeper takes on the role of Joan in a local production of Shaw’s Saint Joan, and it leads her to disrupt the lies that keep the town running smoothly (if dishonestly). It’s as if the venerable old Our Town had suddenly taken a dive into political and religious controversy.

Highlights of the River Stage production of Book of Days include a versatile set that allows for rapid-fire pacing and uses its vertical space well. Lynn Baker, as Ruth, the actress-turned-Cassandra, and Earl Victorine as her husband, Len, are smart, funny and believable. Dan Featherton’s turn as the ultimate sleazeball, small-town hotshot (a lawyer, if you can believe it), almost requires a towel to wipe the slime off, while his accomplice, Earl (played by Paul Schechter), is appropriately weasel-y.

The Joan of Arc connection never quite takes the importance one might expect; the play’s resolution is dissatisfying and the critique of religious hypocrisy isn’t fully realized. The flaws, however, are less of an issue, thanks to the experienced and well-balanced cast. They’re a pleasure to watch.