Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Unbound"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Unbound"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The last show of URI theatre season is "Unbound" by Laura Marks. This is the Rhode Island premiere of this show about Fanny Kemble (1809-93), a British actress and is based on her journals. This powerful play portrays the life of a remarkable woman of artistry, curiosity and humanity. In the 1830's on a tour in New York City, Fanny falls in love with the charming, wealthy gentleman Pierce Butler and happily and willingly gives up her theatrical career to become his wife and soon the mother of his two daughters. Despite his resistance, she wins him over to the notion of leaving northern society for life on his family cotton and rice plantation in Georgia where who and what she encounters changes her life forever. The depth of her understanding of what it means to live off others labor creates a moral dilemma and painful life decision which is the heart and soul of "Unbound". Bryna Wortman directs the show with a keen insight to the historical details of this country and casts 14 student performers in her show.

The show is episodic in nature. Bryna uses slides to depict the real life characters during some of the scenes. She is aided in her task by the gorgeous 19th century costumes by Marilyn Salvatore, especially impressive are the pink and red Victorian gowns. Also the hard working stage manager Megan Doran and her topnotch crew constantly moving set pieces throughout the show. The splendid set is by Christian Wittwer (Large Victorian curtains hang over the set during Act 1 and are removed when Fanny goes south for Act 2)with lighting by David Roy and sound by Michael Hyde. The show is a thought-provoking play based on an unconventional look at slavery. Fanny Kemble's journals weren't published until she returned to the North to become an abolitionist. Bryna has five actresses portraying Fanny. Jolie Lippincott plays the heroine of the story. Their money came from the toil of over a thousand slaves and Fanny tried to convince her husband to release the slaves and help to rescue them from their suffering. Day after day Fanny was confronted by their misery. Jolie creates a memorable character that the audience easily relates to as the young Fanny. Stephanie Rodger plays the older Fanny who looks back on her life with no regrets after realizing she should publish her journal. Nora Eschenheimer, Olivia Khoshatefeh and Jennifer Michaels are the ensemble Fanny's. They are similar to a Greek chorus at times reciting the lines as this one character. They all do a wonderful job portraying this real life woman who must come unbound at great cost to her personally and her family.

Benjamin Grills is Pierce, her husband who is handsome and debonair but doesn't understand that slavery is wrong. He finally explodes at Fanny saying "All niggers are liars" when she confronts him for the final time. Slave overseer, Oden is well played by Cory Crew. The relationship between Fanny and Albert Coelho's character of Aleck, the slave is heartwarming while there are comic moments especially in the Romeo and Juliet sequence with Johnny Sederquist as a foppish Romeo who constantly moves to find his light during his death scene and with Michael Puppi and Margaret Kane as Fanny's parents who thrust her into theater at an early age because she is pretty. Jesse Dufault plays John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Rose, a minister and Jocilyn Hardguittini as Harriet, the slave that Fanny tries to help. So for a look back at the horrors of slavery by a woman who witnessed it first hand, be sure to catch "Unbound" at URI.

"Unbound" (22 April - 2 May)
2ND STORY THEATRE
@ Studio J, URI, Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1(401)874-5843

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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