"The Minutes" - by Tracy Letts - Umbrella Arts Center (Concord, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of "THE MINUTES" by Tracy Letts, presented by Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. now playing through March 24, 2024. Photo Credit: Jim Sabitus)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724   

“Here is your future." 

                                  - ("Superba") / Tracy Letts  

Umbrella Arts Center

Presents Tracy Letts' 


Written by Tracy S. Letts

Directed by Scott Edmiston 

Cast Includes: Ryan MacPherson as "Mr. Peel," Steven Barkhimer* as "Mayor Superba," Eliza Fichter as "Ms. Johnson," Damon Singletary* as "Mr. Blake," Dan Kelly as "Mr. Breeding," Scot Colford as "Mr. Hanratty," Jason Myatt as "Mr. Assalone," June Kfoury as "Ms. Innes," Julie Perkins as "Ms. Matz," Richard Snee* as "Mr. Oldfield," Jeremiah Kissel* as "Mr. Carp"

Additional Creative Team:

Producer - Brian Boruta;  Stage Manager - Michael T. Lacey*; Lighting Designer - SeifAllah Salotto-Cristobal; Audio Designer - James Cannon; Scenic Designer - Janie Howland; Scenic Design Assistant -Joe Morales IV; Costume Designer - Bethany Mullins; Wardrobe Supervisor - Tree Brock; Props/Set Dressing - Julia Wonkka; EDI - Consultant Kira Troilo; Fight Coordinator - Jesse Hinson 

* Appearing through an Agreement between this theater and Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. 


March 1, 2024 through March 24, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)

Main Stage Theater 144 

The Umbrella Arts Center, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA 01742



# 978-371-0820



Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Umbrella Arts Center has staged an intensely compelling mystery in "THE MINUTES" which is one of the best shows this season and will appeal to many a fan of "The Twilight Zone." 

Billed as an "unflinching allegory about small-town politics," the one-act "MINUTES" comes from "August: Osage County" author, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner, Tracy S. Letts, and that billing is not just marketing hyperbole. 

This is a phenomenally written story, well executed by the Umbrella Arts Center cast under the expert direction of Scott Edmiston.

Every single performance is methodical, on point and, while certain events take a bizarre turn at times, it does not diminish from the overall impact of multiple revelations as the story progresses.

"THE MINUTES" premiered in Chicago in 2017 with previews in 2020 in New York City

Before the play was due to open, COVID-19 pandemic shut down all of Broadway and the production was cancelled. 

In 2022, a production was staged at New York's Studio 54 and the play nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.  

For a number of years, as a news correspondent, I reported on many meetings - from school boards, city councils, boards of health, boards of selectmen and the like.

As anyone who has been lucky enough to attend one of the above meetings, every one is filled with gripping tension, high intensity, sex, intrigue and all out excitement.

I'm lying, of course. 

They are incredibly routine, prosaic and, if you can stay awake long enough to make it through any of the above, you are a far better person than I.   

This is not to disparage anyone who selflessly performs praiseworthy tasks for their communities on a regular basis.

However...I have always said I would rather cover a really horrible play (hello "Frankenstein") than a really good selectmen's meeting.

The accuracy of "THE MINUTES" and how many of the above meetings run via "Robert's Rules of Orderis top-notch. 

The only thing missing from the Umbrella Arts Center production, ingeniously staged by Edmiston, is the complete and utter boredom...thankfully.

With "THE MINUTES," it is a pleasure to cover a really bizarre city council meeting WITHOUT the stunning mundaneness.

(Photo: The CAST of "THE MINUTES" by Tracy Letts, presented by Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. now playing through March 24, 2024. Photo Credit: Jim Sabitus)

This particular meeting takes place on a stormy day in November in small town "Big Cherry." 

The events of the meeting unfold in real time and, for the characters, as advertised, the revelations unmask "undercurrents that threaten to undo life as they know it." 

The catalyst for the events that follow is a councilman, Mr. Peel (Ryan MacPherson) who was absent for a previous meeting due to a death in the family.

As the other members of the council arrive, they express their condolences and attempt to get down to the new meeting business. 

MacPherson perfectly conveys the empathetic Peel, who is concerned about a singular event from the missed meeting where a councilman, Mr. Carp (Jeremiah Kissel) was ousted with no explanation and no available transcript of the meeting (i.e. "THE MINUTES").

The mystery deepens as he confronts each member, one by one, for more information. 

Letts' plays typically involve characters presented with moral and spiritual questions. "THE MINUTES" is no different.  

Once the meeting begins, Peel attempts to follow procedure to make the information known, but he runs into obstacles from nearly every member, led by Mayor Superba (Steven Barkhimer).

(Photo: Ryan MacPherson as "Mr. Peel" confronts members of the City Council in an intense exchange from "THE MINUTES" by Tracy Letts, presented by Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. now playing through March 24, 2024. Photo Credit: Jim Sabitus)

Peel seemingly has only two real allies as he seeks the truth about what happened.

The first is fellow councilman, Mr. Hanratty (Scot Colford), who is, himself, at odds with the council as he seeks a new statue and handicap access ramp for a fountain located in the center of Big Cherry (to coincide with a major town founding anniversary celebration).

Colford is marvelous as the anxious Hanratty, who explains to Peel how the statue would commemorate a significant historical town-defining event which, for some old western movie fans, might seem familiar.

The other ally for Peel is council secretary, Ms. Johnson (Eliza Fichter), a staunch, punctilious record keeper who, by directive, is aware of far more than she is allowed to reveal.

As Ms. Johnson, Fichter skillfully maintains a difficult balancing act with Johnson wanting to aid Peel in his effort to find the truth yet also wanting to remain loyal to her position.

The eldest councilman is Mr. Oldfield (Richard Snee) who makes some of the oddest contributions throughout the meeting, indicating he might not be all there. A wonderfully eccentric performance by Snee.

Damon Singletary gives a scrupulous performance as greedy conservative "Mr. Blake," whose idea of funding for the Big Cherry celebration involves a "smack-down" cage for paid fighting events rather than Hanratty's statue and access ramp. 

The only thing Blake cares about is how the investment might ultimately best benefit him.

(Photo: Jason Myatt as "Mr. Assalone" confronts Jeremiah Kissel as "Mr. Carp" in front of the seated Richard Snee as "Mr. Oldfield" in a scene from "THE MINUTES" by Tracy Letts, presented by Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. now playing through March 24, 2024. Photo Credit: Jim Sabitus)

Councilmen Breeding (Dan Kelly) and Assalone (rhymes with "pepperoni" and is played by Jason Myatt) each have their own objections to Hanratty's proposal but seem to be making excuses to deflect Peel from making further inquiries about Carp. 

Both Kelly and Myatt are truly dynamic as this pair of arrogant "bullies" on the city council, with each one trying to save their own interests by keeping their "questionable" actions concealed.

Rounding out the members of the council are the long-winded Ms. Innes (June Kfoury) and overly-medicated Ms. Matz (Julie Perkins). 

Like Snee, Kfoury and Perkins each skillfully injects a lot of humor into the story which has a lot of awkward moments before becoming far more serious later on. 

The dialogue flows energetically as each member of the superb cast passes off to one another as if they are participating in some kind of verbal relay race. 

There is also a bizarre "re-enactment" of historical events that seemingly comes out of nowhere but, once it begins, it is wildly funny (yet, simultaneously, is filled with far darker imagery).

Barkhimer as the Mayor is also given a couple of scrupulously crafted monologues in the Letts' script which he flawlessly conveys.

(Photo: Scot Colford as "Mr. Hanratty" stands in front of the CAST of "THE MINUTES" by Tracy Letts, presented by Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. now playing through March 24, 2024. Photo Credit: Jim Sabitus)

The more Peel...well..."peels" away at the mystery, the clearer it becomes that what happened to Carp is a discussion and group decision-making governance than is covered in "Robert's Rules of Order."

Kissel as Carp does not appear until much later in the story but, once he does, his commanding presence soon elicits information that changes everything that has come before.

The question isn't necessarily if the mystery WILL be solved. 

The question is more how might WE react to the information IF the mystery is solved. 

No spoilers but, any community planning a similar "founders day celebration" any time soon might want to first experience "THE MINUTES" before making plans.  

The set is absolutely stunning and perfectly functional, and the added technical elements fully enhance the overall ambience of the story.

"THE MINUTES" is an allegorical masterpiece by Letts and one which would have probably made "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling proud...or jealous that he did not write it himself.

"THE MINUTES" continues at Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, Ma. until March 24th, 2024.

Coming up next for Umbrella Arts Center is the marvelous musical, "THE FULL MONTY" by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek

For tickets and more information, contact Umbrella Arts Center at # 978-371-0820 or visit www.theumbrellaarts.org


Approximately one hour, 40 minutes with no intermission 

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




An evening in Big Cherry – a small town in anywhere USA – and the city council meeting unfolds in real time, unmasking undercurrents that threaten to undo life as they know it … and driving the question - 

“How far would you go?”

Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts’ ("August: Osage County") new play was called one of the most thrilling on Broadway in recent years. 

Nominated as Best New Play by the Tony Awards and Outer Critics Circle in 2022, and for the Pulitzer Prize in drama, "THE MINUTES" is part biting comedy, part Hitchockian mystery, and at its dark heart an unflinching allegory about small-town politics and real-world power.

“...both a political comedy and a wicked, methodically plotted horror show… It’s devilishly funny until it’s not. It is thrilling and essential theater …”     - Variety

“It’s an important play, a visceral theatrical experience about what has happened to retail American democracy and how this nation decides which stories about itself it wants to believe.”     - NY Daily News 


THE UMBRELLA ARTS CENTER enriches lives and builds a vibrant and inclusive community through the arts. THE UMBRELLA ARTS CENTER promotes creativity, learning, personal growth, and cultural exchange through accessible arts education programs, performing and visual arts presentations, and community collaborations. 


The Umbrella Arts Center

40 Stow Street

Concord, MA 01742

# 978-371-0820