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Stonewall Jackson’s House

In "Stonewall Jackson's House," Jonathan Reynolds has created an American play of ideas much in the manner of Paddy Chayefsky, with intelligent characters expressing their philosophies with a wit that sparkles and stabs at the same time. Reynolds is willing to say some unpleasant things, and says them in a not unpleasant way. Using a play-within-a-play structure, "Stonewall" focuses on the do-gooder management of a small, progressive theater company. One of the plays under consideration at the company is "Stonewall Jackson's House," in which an unhappy young black tour guide at the Civil War landmark persuades a sightseeing white couple to take her on as a slave at their 600-acre Ohio farm. This strikes the tour guide as the only way out of her dead-end existence.

With:
Cast: Lisa Louise Langford (LaWanda), R.E. Rodgers (Junior), Katherine Leask (Mag), Ron Faber (Barney), Mimi Bensinger (Del).

A fierce argument ensues among the theater company’s liberal managers, a young black dramaturg, a visiting director and the author of the play. The high-minded managers find it inconceivable that the white male author could dare to propose that his black character sell herself into slavery, and are only less certain when the dramaturg reveals that she is the true author and has hired an actor so that the play will be taken seriously.

What follows is a thrashing out of whether the play is viable, which gives way to a larger, and frequently hilarious, debate on political correctness in the theater, racism, sexism, victimization, the welfare state, black leadership and the disintegration of the U.S., as well as the personal disintegration of the characters.

The cast does a superb job of delivering the author’s complex arguments with clarity and conviction. Lisa Louise Langford is especially strong in her dual role as the suffering tour guide and the equally suffering playwright. Ron Faber is very funny as the well-spoken Ohio gentleman farmer and his counterpart, the mealy-mouthed theater manager. Rest of the cast does fine jobs in dual roles.

The play’s director, Jamie Richards, does a first-rate job of keeping the play focused through the several twists and turns concocted by author Reynolds, making his way to an ultra-politically correct ending.

Stonewall Jackson's House

NEW YORK

Production: An American Place Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Jonathan Reynolds. Directed by Jamie Richards. Sets, Henry S. Dunn

Creative: Costumes, Barbara A. Bell; lighting, Chad McArver; sound, Kurt B. Kellenberger; production stage manager, Joe Witt. Artistic director, Wynn Handman. Opened Feb. 16, 1997, at the American Place Theater. Reviewed Feb. 23; 74 seats; $35 top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Lisa Louise Langford (LaWanda), R.E. Rodgers (Junior), Katherine Leask (Mag), Ron Faber (Barney), Mimi Bensinger (Del).

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