Ladybird & I saw the Rep’s production of “Gee’s Bend” at Copaken Stage in the P&L tonight. Dreary.
I haven’t seen a show this tedious since the Unicorn’s production of “La Cage aux Folles” last summer. The story of Gee’s Bend, the town, is fascinating. An African-American community in Alabama, it’s citizen played a key role in the civil rights movement. Local authorities terminated ferry service to the community as a punishment for the townspeople marching and registering to vote in nearby Camden. Ferry service remained absent for more than 40 years, isolating the community. The women of the town developed a uniquely beautiful style of quilting that verges on modern art. Their quilts hang in various museums and several important touring shows have been mounted.
But the play blows. The pace is plodding and the characterization weak. It could have benefited from an intermission, mostly so we could have left during it. The set design has has a vague corporate blahness reinforced by the vague corporate blahness of the Copaken Stage itself. The cast seems game enough, but the material & production are so weak they can’t overcome it (except Starla Benford who delights as the quiet matriarchal bedrock of the family). The play wants desperately to deliver a message that has been delivered hundreds of times before and in much stronger works. The struggle for equality, respect and a place in the world should never be this mind-numbing.
Avoid like the plague.