Elizabeth Gertrude Stern/
Elizabeth Gertrude Stern/Mother Mary Jones … Hallie Todd Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Dr. Anna Howard Shaw … Sharon Maughan Maria Mitchell/Susie King Taylor … Charlayne Woodard Vocalists … Julie Christensen, Amy Goddard Instrumentalist … Rob Meurer Audience members who view “Out of My Father’s House” not as a feminist theater piece, but as a revealing look into the human struggle for emergence from stereotyping and the establishment of self-worth, will experience a lyrical , richly layered theatrical event. The ostensible focus of Paula Wagner, Jack Hofsiss and Eve Merriam’s script magnifies the hurt, anger, determination and triumphs of six women’s pursuit of happiness and a defined identity, but the work covertly encompasses all who experience repression in any form. Therein lies the power of this show. Diarist Anais Nin’s observation–“Emotional dramas, which pass like storms, leave peace behind”–exemplifies the developmental journey taken by the women in “Our Father’s House.” Ranging from 1815 to 1954 and covering a vast portion of America’s expanding geography, each member of the talented ensemble (Hallie Todd, Sharon Maughan and Charlayne Woodard) creates two women who embody the angst and actualizations attached to freedom. The cast, under Kenneth Frankel’s light-handed direction, for the most part moves fluidly from one character to the next with musical transitions and comments seamlessly provided by the clear-voiced Julie Christensen and Amy Goddard. Todd’s and Maughan’s delineations occasionally lack definition but are nonetheless engrossing. These actresses possess a directness of focus that they use to grip the audience, sometimes with a look or gesture, sometimes with a cry , but always with commitment and integrity. Of particular note are Todd’s portrayal of labor organizer Mary (Mother) Jones (1830-1930) and Maughan’s of circuit minister Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847- 1919). Moving with aplomb from pathos to hilarity, Woodard creates portraits that are solidly, richly different. Her escaped slave-turned-doctor, Susie King Taylor (1848-1912), and obsessive astronomer, Maria Mitchell (1818-89), adroitly illustrate the differences and similarities of two African-American women of diverse backgrounds. “Out of Our Father’s House” provides a lush, introspective look into an overworked subject, pointing up the fact that these injustices still exist today; the production clearly shows that this case may be made subtly, poetically, without bludgeoning the audience with emotional dogma.
Out of Our Father's House
(Fountainhead Theatre, Hollywood; 75 seats; $ 10 top)
A Fountainhead Theatre Co. presentation of a play in one act arranged for the stage by Paula Wagner, Jack Hofsiss and Eve Merriam, with folk music compiled by Ruth Crawford Seeger; based on a book by Merriam. Directed by Kenneth Frankel. Musical staging, Carol Wade.
Set, Bruce Rodgers; costumes, Susanne Puisto; lights, Steve Lenchner; original music, Julie Christensen. Reviewed July 17, 1992.