note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
Coyote Theatre is known for taking risks and their current resitation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" turns out to be most timely. The news media made a feast out of Harry Belafonte's indictment of Colin Powell as a 21st century uncle tom...Saturday Night Live even ran with the accusations in a seeringvly funny sketch.
The Kay/Rand adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 (serialized) novel incorporates actual scenes from the work, corrupted "minstrel show" images of Stowe's characters, and snippets of historical criticism --- from James Baldwin to W.E.B. Dubois. The grotesque stereotypes will have you wincing --- and perhaps assuming they're a thing of the past; but you only have to find references to "coon songs" in their minstrel show section, as unbelievable as it sounds. (You can't dismiss it as a British phenomenon either; it's published in London AND New York. But I digress.)
What works best dramatically is the repetition of characters and scenes with multiple actors playing the same role --- e.g., Uncle Tom is played by both male and female, by actors of color and by white actors.
What works best intellectually --- in my opinion --- is the criticism section. Most everyone remembers that Topsy grew and Little Eva traversed the ice-flows, baby at her breast --- but the polar opposite opinions from diverse authors are fascinating. And each makes a compelling argument for and against the work --- which President Lincoln said started the Civil War. Coyote shines a light on the greys and well as the Black & White of racism.
Director Jeff Mousseau's ensemble of five actors do remarkable work to portray all of the sundry characters, from sheriffs to todlers --- especially David Scott, who stepped in at the last moment to replace an ailing actor. Scott performed consistently at Roxbury Community College last year, and it's great to see him break into professional theater.