Rust Belt Theater Company ‘Hollow’ takes legendary story to new places

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the play brilliantly examines social acceptance and the terrifying nature of legends...

By Eric McCrea


The Rust Belt Theater Company knows its audience, and knows that Halloween is still just a little too far away. Its newest original and locally written musical, “Hollow,” by Robert Dennick Joki and Josh Taylor, takes a fantastic look at the classic legend of the Headless Horseman.

Based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, this version brilliantly examines social acceptance and the terrifying nature of legends in the collective narrative.

Director Mary Boldish James assembled an impressive cast and perfectly captured the theme of this adaptation. She kept the cast moving and expertly used the space. Choreography was intricate and expressive, staying true to the period without being stale.

Space at the Rust Belt makes pre-recorded music a practical choice, but if they ever decide to use live musicians, “Hollow” would be a perfect choice. The orchestrations were fantastic, at times pulling attention from the show because they were so well written. The songs were fun and spanned genres, and each had a tone befitting this dark legend. The cast members were confident with their singing, but harmonies were thin and a couple songs in the first act had abrupt endings.

Dialog was largely in the form of narration, with the cast functioning much like a Greek chorus. They still performed as if in character and did fine keeping the meter smooth, but there was an absence of character development for the actors to work through. These aspects gave the show a ghost-story atmosphere, enhanced by the thrust staging.

“Hollow” clocks in under two hours, but one scene that described the food served at a party was noticeably long, especially since it interrupted the mounting tension. Frequent punctuation with songs gave the show real momentum.

Jack Rusk was a great choice as Ichabod Crane. His dialog was sparse in the first act, with most of the story revolving around the town’s analysis of him, but he was great at reacting and being a pivotal part of the scene.

Kage Coven, as Baltus Van Tassel, was one actor who noticeably refused to let layered unison be the standard. He added depth to the sound with subtle and natural harmony.

Cassie Wirtz darkly shined as Sofie De Boer. She wore a somber air and had a lush voice which carried the story with understated nuance.

Bernadette Lim gave a solid performance as Katrina Van Tassel. She had a sweetly sad presence, and she nailed her songs.

Ryan Musgrove was striking as the Gaston-esque Brom Van Brunt. Despite being the outward villain, he had a fun time and didn’t let the tone get too heavy.

There was little set to speak of, and it was not missed at all. Lighting was well done and added the right touch to the aesthetics. The decision to use microphones was largely unnecessary.

“Hollow” can be seen at The Rust Belt Theater Company’s home at Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 22. For reservations, call 330-507-2358.