note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark
Scenic/Production Design, Production Manager Doc Madison
Dramaturg Emily Otto
Costumes by Jonna Klaiber
Sound Design John McClain
Properties Master Comelia Robart
Master Carpenter Daniel Hackett
Stage Manager Linda Sughrue
Barbara Jordan............Michelle Dowd
John Ed Patton...Wesley Lawrence Taylor
Nancy Earl....Susan Lombarti-Verticelli
Robert Strauss.............John McClain
Julie Dunn..................Akiba Abaka
Karen Woodruff.............Janell Mills
The aesthetics of politics has been compared to sausage-making --- and so it's refreshing to watch Michelle Dowd, playing hardball-politician Barbara Jordan, lay out realistic reasons for maintaining rock-hard integrity and a hope of unity while hip-deep in Washington. She was elected for three House of Representative terms from Texas, she lent her dignity and vote to the impeachment trial of Richard Nixon, and she eloquently championed civil rights and inclusive unity against White Segregationists and Black Separatists alike. When her body forced retirement, it was to a teaching career at the University of Texas. Kristine Thatcher's "Voice of Good Hope", directed by Kortney Adams, brings this inspiring big Black woman alive in glory.
Like a number of recent "bio-plays" Thatcher's study illustrates Jordan's life with isolated re-creations of her precise, ringing speeches, shows her irritably chiding her devoted housekeeper (Susan Lombarti-Verticelli) and a young neurologist (Karen Woodruff) --- both bent on curbing her cigarette-habit and keeping the beloved teacher alive --- and then lets Jordan actually watch three memorable scenes illuminating her own life.
First there is a glimpse of her at twelve --- played by Cheyenne Jones with spunky insight --- absorbing worldly awareness from her junk-man grandfather (Wesley Lawrence Taylor). The judgement "You're 'wise'; 'smart' may come along later" sets the tone for both the scene, and the play.
What follows are two political confrontations --- one with John McClain as a Washington insider pleading for a favor, the other with Akiba Abaka playing a Black office-seeker who absorbed too little of Jordan's philosophy from her classroom. It's here that the conflicts between political necessity and inner integrity get their most illuminating airing.
Production Designer Doc Madison has arranged the Theatre Cooperative playing-space in four illuminated areas representing times in Jordan's life, but the spare, specific props by Cornelia Robart only focus attention on the characters and their message. In every case, Director Kortney Adams has seen to it that it's the message, as it unfolds, that dominates this moving, human portrait of integrty in action.
( a k a larry stark )