“A Spring to Remember” is much more lively and jovial than its misty-eyed title would suggest. It’s about roughneck lumberjacks who swear and fight and spit, and about a newlywed couple learning how to fit in.
Ruth and Nathan Hale wrote the play based on their experiences in the Targhee National Forest in 1934, and Sally Dietlein later added songs. It’s a vivid and (one assumes) accurate depiction of those difficult, happy times, and the Hales’ fond memories of them shine through.
The Hales wrote themselves as Dave (Sanford Porter) and Linda (Natalie Empey), a young couple living in a dilapidated shack during the Depression. Dave is doing lumber work while Linda — a city girl unaccustomed to such primitive surroundings — stays home and tries to keep rat droppings from falling in the food. She used to be high-falutin’ — evidenced by her over-pronunciation of all the t’s and d’s in her words — but she’s slowly adjusting to the natural life.
There’s a host of colorful characters around, of course, including Dave’s gruff co-workers, an amusing old coot, and a flirtatious single gal. Most of them are two-fisted drinkers who love a good Saturday night brawl.
Trouble arises from a number of sources, including a visit from the game warden (Boydell Bown) and the reappearance of one of Dave’s old flames (Ashlee LaPine).
The hummable, down-home songs are often very good, depicting the grand adventure of working in the Targhee — and then it’s made commonplace by the pedestrian sitcom-style dialogue and weak plot. (One thinks of sitcoms a lot during a Hale-written play.) It has the mismatched couple and the wacky neighbors; add some cute kids and you could put it on Fridays on ABC.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if that’s what you go for. The performances are as earnest and pleasant as the play itself, and it’s hard to fault a show where a character describes someone as “slower than a ruptured duck,” whatever that means.
Should you go? It is harmless and mostly pretty fun — a little watered-down for some tastes, but very palatable.