‘George Washington Slept Here’ sees good community turnout
Tale of early 1940s America shares less romantic view of past
It’s the early 1940s in the United States, and “with the way things are going,” city office worker Newton Fuller (Joseph Henderson) has decided to move himself and his family, out to the countryside.
“Just think Annabelle, George Washington slept here,” he tells his less than thrilled wife Annabelle (Hailey Schneider) of the country farm house in Pennsylvania, with twenty-inch-thick walls and a train ride from work downtown.
“Well, we are in America,” wife Annabelle retorts, not too pleased with what her husband of 22 years has done by purchasing the place without her knowledge. With 22 years behind them, meanwhile, the couple appears to have left the honeymoon phase of married life and its illusions far behind. Though far from perfect, they nonetheless remain fully committed to each another. As to the legend about George Washington, however, it’s not exactly true, as they find out from a neighbor named Miss Douglas. I truth, she informs them, it was actually General Benedict Arnold (the traitor) who slept at Fuller’s newly purchased farm with walls like a castle. A full cast of characters came out last week to put on the show as follows: Caitlyn Buck / Aunt Agatha - playing a rich aunt’ act since losing the factory in1929, in order to continue securing the good graces of her family, who tolerate her to hold on to inheritance privileges.
Alayna Gergeley / Mr. Prescott – a neighboring landowner and bank board member out to foreclose on the Fuller property.
Aden Leichleitner / Mr. Kimber – Fuller Farm superintendent and well driller Jasmine Sanchez / Madge Fuller - The Fuller family daughter, involved with Steve Eldridge (Seth Zastrow) and later Clayton Evans (Alec Spillers).
Sydney Gundlach / Mrs. Douglas - Neighbor who informs the Fullers that Mr. Prescott owns their road access.
Raedyn Gardner / “Katie” and Emma Pawlak/ “Hester” - The hired kitchen help.
Breielle Thompson / Rena Leslie - An actress married to Clayton, who warns the Fullers of their daughter straying.
Photo by Joseph Back. Raymond / “Huckleberry Capone” (Alec Spillers) - The somewhat neglected nephew staying with the Fullers for another month while a custody battle works out.
Caleb Beltoya / Legett Frazer - Friend of Madge Syd Beltoya / Tommy Hughes - Madge’s friend Victoria Szczech / Sue Barrington - Madge’s friend Brianna Hinrichs / Miss Wilcox - Friend of Madge The dilemmas navigated by each of the characters in the 1940s era drama vary, both among themselves and throughout the play. Mr. Prescott is one of the antagonists—and there’s the reading list as well.
“My, my, ‘A Study in Scarlet,” Mr. Fuller says of the library. “I haven’t read that in years.” But while Fuller is engrossed with the adventure of Watson and Holmes lodged at 221 Baker Street in London, the country house that Fuller has purchased back at America has no stove, no sink, no pots, no pans—and no well water to boot. The well boring drill is later reported to have hit a cemetery after first striking mud—420 feet down, mind you. Then there’s daughter Madge and boyfriend Steve, who come under censure from Mr. Prescott as they go exploring.
“He said, ‘you are trespassing on my property and I will ask you to get off. So we got off,’” Madge reports to her parents of the encounter, while Steve (a surveyor as it later turns out), determines that the property boundary is reversed by 64 feet in Mr. Prescott’s direction, so that he (Prescott) is actually on the Fuller’s land. This also plays into the happy ending as such. Before that can come though, there are taxes!
More specifically, there are road taxes, school taxes, and the county assessment, which the previous city apartment Fuller family isn’t used to in full splendor. At least the neighbors appear to be nice though.
Enter Miss Leslie and her husband Clayton Evans. Clayton is seen for just one act introducing himself and his wife, while Miss Leslie stops by later to warn Mrs. Fuller of what’s going on. In the meantime, there’s hired kitchen hand Hester, who asks the night off from a non-plussed Mrs. Fuller so she can talk to “my man” as she puts it, the same getting married soon.
“Married? Well then he’s not your man,” Mrs. Fuller says, being told that the one in question isn’t married yet but will be soon if Hester can’t speak to him. A report from nephew Raymond cues Mrs. Fuller in further that Hester is due to have a baby, though whether this is in fact the case never comes out clearly, as Hester herself gives conflicting testimony on the matter, and ends up marrying the brother of her former love.
Back to Madge, and the untrustworthy married man.
“Normally I don’t get involved,” Leslie says of her husband’s wandering eye. “Girls seem to take Clayton seriously,” she says, later reporting that the feared event has happened—Madge had run off with Miss Leslie’s husband. The Fullers and Miss Leslie together with supporting cast then “cross the Delaware” to save Madge from her unfortunate delusion of bliss with Mr. Evans, a quest in which they are ultimately successful. Back at home the next day all seems well on the farm.
“Steve’s back,” Mr. Fuller says of his daughter’s boyfriend, with whom Madge had a fight the day before, presumably on news of her running away. Surveyor Steve is better for his daughter than a married Mr. Evans, to be sure. But then the next to last crisis strikes. Will they be able to keep the farm house, being that they owe $5,000 within just days and Mr. Prescott is on the bank board?
That’s where Mrs. Douglas renders a possible save prior to Madge’s delusion, by providing nephew Raymond—who also plays Clayton Evans— with the original property deed. Raymond, or “Huckleberry Capone,” as Mr. Fuller calls him, promises Mrs. Douglas to give the map to the Fullers but then phones Mr. Prescott without telling his aunt and uncle, saying that if Prescott is smart he’ll buy the map. With that he exits the stage.
The day is given new hope when Madge and Steve return with the map and a full report of Raymond’s misdeed while the Fullers and Miss Leslie are racking their brains along with Aunt Agatha on just how to save the place from foreclosure. Aunt Agatha would give the money if she could—perhaps spurred on by honest family members for once—but has been broke ever since the crash in 1929 and is paid monthly by the bank for use of her otherwise respectable name for the repossessed factory. Then the ‘eureka’ moment comes: all can be saved by returning the house to its ‘original condition,’ as stipulated by contract in the event of foreclosure. The Fullers have done a lot of cleaning, and whether anyone should want the home in its original condition, is an open question.
“Bring in the manure, and lots of it,” Mrs. Fuller says as they seek to return the place to its original condition’ prior to purchase, including animals lodged in the kitchen. As it turns out, this display of a trashed residence becomes wholly unnecessary after Aunt Agatha using her name reputation and a check, puts on a performance in the family living room, turning the tables on Mr. Prescott (who is present) and making him anxious to settle the matter ‘privately and quietly,’ meaning the Fullers get to keep the house.
“It’s going to be a long time before the real estate people find another sucker like you,” Mr. Kimber tells Fuller upon notice of the coming foreclosure—and if you can believe that a cemetery was hit 420 feet underground after drilling for a well and striking mud, that may just be a not inaccurate assessment—if not for the house being saved in the end. Mr. Fuller’s dreams of being remembered as a nice country neighbor by future generations, finally appear able to come true—considering the future correctly remembers its own past. Then again, esteemed first president and general George Washington spending the night makes for a much better legend than the disgraced Benedict Arnold, in terms of a property’s history.
Keep up with community and school happenings by considering a subscription to The Stanley Republican. Call 715-709-0008 to learn more. Digital options available.
Photo by Joseph Back.
Photo by Joseph Back.