THEATRE WORKS “CONFEDERATES”
An entertaining play
By Iride Aparicio
Photos by: Kevin Bern
Will RICHARD PRIOLEAU & TASHA LAWRENCE as Stephanie
PALO ALTO, CA-- The word “Confederate” is Latin in origin. It comes from the word Confoederare. (l350-1400) which means to unite in a league. The English language Dictionary defines “Confederate” as both an adjective, (with a Capital “C “) meaning: united, league, alliance or conspiracy. and as a noun, meaning: a person or group, or nation, united with others in a confederacy or as an accomplice on a criminal act.
When associated with U.S. History, we find the nouns: Confederate States , which is the name given to the States in the South, that recessed from The Union in l861-l865 during the American Civil War . and Confederate Flag, the name given to the red flag crossed by the blue Southern cross with seven stars, used in the battle by General Robert E. Lee Army of Northern Virginia The battle Confederate Flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state Capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups, but we are familiar with it because it was resurrected by the KKK and the Skinheads. The Confederate Flag as a flag, represents heritage, not hate, but these groups picked the flag, to remind the American people of the times of segregation and slavery. For racists, the Confederate Flag represent White Supremacy.
In her play “CONFEDERATES,” presented by THEATRE WORKS, Silicon Valley as their 67th World Premiere, playwright SUZANNE BRADBEER uses different meanings of the word, Confederate, in the creation of a play in which the answer she seem to be looking for in her work seems to be: What will be the media's ethics in a case where an action is done to a racist symbol ?
In an article printed in the plays’s program, BRADBEER tells her interviewer that the idea for ther play CONFEDERATES came to her from several books she read, about political reporting of politicians, by the Political Journalists. So, apparently detecting the lack of ethics in their reporting, she admits in her interview, that reading these books, made her feel fascinated (and horrified) by the idea that one misstep could ruin your life: if you are in the public eye.
In CONFEDERATES, her play, the Political Journalists are two, who work together at the same television station. Stephanie (TASHA LAWRENCE) a white woman in her forties, a seasoned journalist, and Will (RICHARD PRIOLEAU) a young Afro-American a "cub reporter", who at the beginning of the play, and by his cell phone conversation seems to be more interested in an Online Poker Game than on the Senator’s speech that may lead him to the presidential primaries, that be and Stephanie will have to cover that night.
The play changes focus when Will (PRIOLEAU, pictured left) is told about a shenanigan that Maddie (JESSICA LYNN CARROLL) the Senator’s young daughter, did when she was working on an art project and got drunk.
Being a cub (beginner) journalist, Will is excited with the information he had just received. The story is a “scoop” which in “the News parlance” means an “Exclusive” story. To be the one to reveal it to the public, career-wise. will be good for him.
But, in revealing what he knows, Will faces an ethical problem because he knows this girl. They met, many years ago when they both attended the same Summer Camp. Will this matter? This story is big and to prove that is true, he has the photograph in his cell phone. He also knows a lot about the story. He knows when it happened, what happened and why because Maddie ( CARROLL) the girl, revealed to him all the sordid. details. Looking back, however, he remembers how this beautiful white girl alway accepted him for what he is. She even told him that when bothe were at the Camp, she had a crush on him because he was very talent and he played the piano. What is he going to do?
The play moves fast, and under the direction of LISA ROTHE, the dialogue sound realistic. Worth mentioning is the creative rotating set, designed by ANDREW BOYCE, which allows the scenes to change TIME and PLACES in seconds. More than a set, it is a work of Art.
The weakness in the play, however, is in the "characters". Will (PRIOLEAU) the handsome TV reporter, is the only one who was well-developed by the playwright. We (the audience) know what he wants, what he likes, and a little bit of his personal background, including his affair with the mother of his child, and how much he loves his “beautiful” daughter whose picture he carries on his cell phone and shows to everybody. In representing the role, of Will, PRIOLEAU knew his character and he portrayed it masterfully . It was easy for the audience to identify with him.
As a play’s "character", however, Stephanie is a cliché. A seasoned TV journalist who talks fast, feels tense most of the time, and because she is a woman in her forties, is afraid of getting “old” and lose her job. Nothing in her“character” brings her lo life. The audience does not learn much about her. She talks little about herself, and what the play shows us confuses us. At first, we can see that her relationship with Will, is business-like. She evem acts a little bossy with him because she has much more reporting experience than he does. Because of what we were shown before, the audience finds completely “out of character” for Stephanie, to go (at 2AM in the morning) to Will’s Hotel room’s (during their trip) knock on his door, jump on top of his bed, and sits on it, eating the snacks she brought.
But in this play, the "character" that needs more work (from the playwright) is Maddie, the white woman from the South, and principal character. Maddie’s role, was realisticlly portrayed by CARROLL, who even sang “Shenandoah” with a beautiful voice, but Maddie “the character” is poorly defined. Her dialogue is too “flaky.” She does not tell the audience much about herself, and it does not help that when she talks, he changes subjects often. To care for her, the audience needs to know: who se is and what she wants.
As presented, Maddie is too complex. She is mature enough to realize she is in trouble, but completely immature to worry about it. Intelligent, yet naïve to really believe that “her friend” is not going to release her incriminating picture to the press. Instead of trying to do something about her problem she rationalizes it with the excuse “I was drunk.”
JESSICA L.CARROLL as (Maddie) & R. PRIOLEAUA as (Will)
There is no dialogue in her "character" which shows to the audience that she is concern about what she did, or wander how, what she did, is going to affect her father, even her family.And because Maddie "the character" is aloof and shows no feelings, she never becomes real.
So, while CONFEDERATES keeps our attention and it it masterfully acted by its three actors, its “subject matter” never touches our hearts.
“CONFEDERATES” will be shown at the Lucie Stern Theatre, l305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto until August 7. For Tickets call 650-463-l960 or order them on line at www.theatreworkks.org.