“Eminent Domain” hits close to home

photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

Cassie Wade

Family conflict, religion and small town Nebraska values dominant the stage at the world premiere of “Eminent Domain” performed at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Written by Omaha native Laura Leininger-Campbell and set in Nance County, Nebraska, “Eminent Domain” tells the story of the MacLeod family and their battle to protect the family ranch from a Canadian oil pipeline.

“Eminent Domain” is performed by a nine-member cast and directed by Amy Lane. Its production is an official event of the Nebraska 150 Celebration, which is a yearlong celebration marking the 150 years of Nebraska’s statehood.

The feeling and culture of Nebraska is well-embodied throughout the play. Everything from the set – an old farmhouse complete with a creaking porch – to the way the actors are dressed in jeans, flannel shirts and work boots is representative of the state.

References to the MacLeod’s Scottish heritage highlights Nebraskans’ tendency to hold on tightly to their ancestry. The sword holstered on the farmhouse’s porch and actor’s kilts are nice touches.

However, the play relies too heavily on Nebraska stereotypes at times. While Nebraska is a red state, having ranch owner Rob MacLeod, played by Bill Hutson, referring to Californians as communists is over the top.

Additionally, the characters’ long-winded speeches about the importance of family may have been designed to reflect Nebraska’s family-centric values but quickly becomes corny and unnecessary.

Issues relevant to Nebraskan families are tackled, though. For example, Adair MacLeod, played by Erika Hall Seiff, faces backlash for leaving the family farm behind to become a lawyer while her brother, Bart, played by Jeremey Estill, gives up his dreams to stay and help out.

The resulting conflict between the siblings and additional inter-family conflict makes the MacLeod family relatable and lovable. Be prepared to sit through several intense screaming matches during the show.

Audience members are warned the play contains adult language. Several “f-bombs” and many other curse words are frequently dropped during the show.

While the cursing adds to Rob MacLeod’s character as a tough, no-nonsense old man, it prevents the show from being kid-friendly.

Besides verbal conflict between the family and the legal battle between the MacLeod’s and the oil pipeline, the plot of “Eminent Domain” takes on other conflicts. This includes Theresa MacLeod’s infidelity and the consequences that being unfaithful have on her marriage.

Rod Macleod’s loss of religion resulting from the death of his wife is another conflict resolved over the course of the play.

All of the conflicts in “Eminent Domain” make the play about more than a Nebraska family fighting an oil pipeline. “Eminent Domain” is also a love story and a story of forgiveness.

The Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of “Eminent Domain” is worth seeing, especially for Nebraska natives. The plot is action-packed, timely and relatable.

The show runs from Aug. 25 through Sept. 17. Tickets are available through the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office, OmahaPlayhouse.com and TicketOmaha.com.

Tickets cost $36. Reduced pricing is available for large groups.