BWW Review: THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON IS POWERFUL SOCIAL COMMENTARY at Ally Theatre Company At Joe's Movement Emporium
Through its stock comedy, interpretive dancing, percussion use and the intimate atmosphere of Joe's Movement Emporium in Mt. Rainer, MD., the play emphasizes why art is important: it makes us look at our history from a different perspective.
Six actors play Martha's house slaves out of the hundreds the Washington family employed at Mount Vernon. They play different characters and Anne Dandridge is the closest slave to Martha, both sharing a dark history together.
Tanya Chattman delivers a particularly moving performance as Anne Dandridge, specifically when she delivers a monologue to Martha about how Washington does not know the darkest parts of her soul. It is powerful because it emphasizes the differences between what Martha believes is true and what Anne knows to be right.
The versatility of the actors is one of the play's strengths. Reginald Richard is a stand-out with his portrayal of four different characters: Davy, Mad King George, George Washington and Jacky Custis. He adds a sass and twist as Washington that viewers will take delight in and is a "breath of fresh air" in a heavy, thought-provoking work.
There are all kinds of moments that will make you laugh, wonder and think but the play moves to a particularly high point when they finally put Martha on trial. The ensemble works together to make the audience wonder if Martha should be punished for her complacency despite her "good" treatment of her slaves.
"America has this contradiction. Everybody's invited to the table, but there's not enough to go around."
The music and sound bytes perfectly coordinate with the mood of the play and the blue and green lighting add to the mystical, evocative psyche of the show. While the show lulled sometime in the middle, the ending is the most punching part, and we are left with a taste of a different America from another lens --emphasizing why good storytelling is more essential than ever, Hamilton age and all.
The show plays through May 20, 2017 at Joe's Movement Emporium in Mount Rainer, MD.
*Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography