BWW Reviews: SOVEREIGN - Law and Order
It’s always a pleasure to see theatre as well-written as Mac Rogers’ Sovereign. And when that theatre also happens to be science fiction, it is a joy to my geeky little heart. Sovereign is, of course, the hotly-anticipated final installment of Rogers’ riveting “Honeycomb Trilogy”. I reviewed the first two installments here and here, but since I was attempting to avoid spoilers, you might want to check out this synopsis of the first two plays provided by the theatre company.
In this stunning final installment, Ronnie (Hanna Cheek) has matured to be the hard-ass Governor of Coral Settlement (formerly Coral Gables, FL), after beating back the alien invaders. She is respected and feared by all, despite her impatience with process of law. The play begins with a dim redneck (C.L. Weatherstone) on trial for acting as he would have in the days of the alien occupation. The two opposing attorneys, the uptight Zander (Matt Golden) and compassionate Tanya (Medina Senghore) argue the laws effectively, thanks to an ongoing civilization reclamation project that has gifted them with the lost powers of due process, which are essential to their idea of themselves as humans. But when Ronnie’s faithful soldiers Wilkie (Neimah Djourabchi), who has a puppy-dog love for his Governor, and the experienced tracker Sharp (Daryl Lathon) bring in Claret (Erin Jerozal) and Ronnie’s lost brother Abbie (Stephen Heskett), that’s when the courtroom drama really begins to sizzle. Rogers skillfully builds a two-act real-time drama with surprise and shock galore. I won’t say anymore about the plot, but I was on The Edge of my seat with occasional tears stinging my eyelids.
Set by Sandy Yalkin is wonderful; her third time re-creating the Cooke’s living room, this time whitewashed and repurposed as the Governor’s seat of power, with a wonderful hand-crafted tribute to the 51 who gave their lives to defeat the aliens. Amanda Jenks’ costumes are suitably frontiersy. Jennifer Linn Wilcox works some stark lighting to her advantage, and Jeanne E. Travis does some effective sound design. JorDana Williams does a fantastic job of direction, as she has through the series.
The cast is uniformly fantastic. Cheek owns the stage as Ronnie, and Heskett is her long-suffering match. Golden and Senghore are terrific sparring partners and each have some wonderful moments. Weatherstone is hilarious in his short scene. Jerozal is amazing as Claret, wearing her emotions appropriately on her sleeve. The always-wonderful Sara Thigpen as Fee (one of the few surviving characters from the previous play) is full of beautifully resigned simmering resentment that she allows to burst out in all the right places. Djourabchi is adorable with his somewhat-misguided protector instincts, and Lathon is a great stoic warrior. I was a little disappointed that Becky Byers and David Rosenblatt did not continue their roles as Ronnie and Abbie, but Cheek and Heskett are so good, I can’t truly begrudge them (and it was probably wise to go with older performers rather than attempt possibly-ineffective age makeup).
Though it helps to have seen the trilogy in its entirety to get the full effect, this piece stands on its own. This is science fiction, but first and foremost, it’s effective drama. And as with all the best science fiction, it asks us questions about what it truly means to be human or a monster. I feel honored to have borne witness to this magnificent series in its entirety. Go.