"Harriet Tubman: An American Moses" at Live Arts Theatre, October 04-06, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: A Kids’ Show
Gay Monteverde’s "Harriet Tubman: An American Moses" was written as a show for children, to familiarize them with the life story of Harriet Tubman, renowned for her career with the Underground Railway, spiriting slaves to the north and to Canada in the years before the Civil War. The play covers more of her life than that, from her childhood to her successful second marriage. While the dialogue includes the "n" word multiple times in a quotation from a Southern slaveholder, the frequent inclusion of Negro spirituals helps to lighten the overall tone of the piece. Still, it’s a sobering lesson in racial relations that in some ways have not progressed markedly over the years.
The simple set was designed by Andrea Hermitt and Jordan Hermitt for use in regional one-act competitions. There’s a backdrop painting of the U.S., two hat racks, a trunk, a snare drum, and a couple of stools. Props and costume pieces (mostly headwear) come from the hat racks or trunk. The storyteller (Thomas Jenkins) gets most of the changes as his narration brings in a variety of characters he embodies. Harriet Tubman (Celeste Campbell) has fewer changes, most notably the Red Cross apron she dons as a Civil War nurse. The costumes, also by the mother-daughter Hermitt team, ably suggest the time period of the action. Becca Parker’s lighting design keeps everything visible.
The play is introduced by and ends with a cappella singing. Mr. Jenkins’ singing voice is powerful and generally in tune, but rough around the edges. Ms. Campbell’s voice is sweeter. Each portrays his or her character(s) with conviction and with good accents, although it seems a bit odd that Mr. Jenkins’ primary character, a Union soldier, has a pronounced Southern accent.
Andrea Hermitt has directed the action nicely, keeping a steady flow across the small stage as scenes and vignettes follow in quick succession. It’s very informative, easy to follow, and entertaining. Still and all, it comes across as educational theatre for children.