BWW Reviews: GEE'S BEND Debuts in DC
From the heart of Elizabeth Gregory-Wilder and the community at MetroStage comes Gee's Bend, an emotive account of a woman and her family living in the bend of Boykin, Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. The story begins with a dream, narrated to us by the play's heroine, Sadie (Roz White). Her story gives insight to the lives of the Pettway women, ladies who brave the trials of segregation and other hardships, not without reminding us of the values they hold dear. This show will bring forth lessons of valuing family, taking chances, standing for your convictions, and sharing your blessings.
The ability to convey such a large story with a four-person cast is impressive. Starting with the set design, the production takes clear advantage of the theater's small space by dedicating nearly every square foot to immersing the audience in the story. There was no barrier between stage and house. The lighting and warm wooden tones are exactly what was needed to give off that 'southern ambiance.' The actors make excellent use of the space via sliding partitions that have windows and a door. They are also able to shift around their minimal furniture in a way where the audience can easily see the difference between Sadie's home, a car and field, a church, and the house that Macon (Anthony Manough) built.
The vocal quality in this production was astounding to say the least. Each of the four performers blended their voices seamlessly during the scene transitions; each piece had just the right amount of emotion and strength poured into it that it kept the audience glued the entire time. Nella (Margo Moorer) and Alice (Duyen Washington) especially showed the seemingly limitless potential of their voices, with audible differences in their volume and intensity. Live music was also provided on the side of the stage, which only augmented the quality of each piece and provided sound effects that brought even more meaning to the characters actions.
Another noteworthy tidbit involves the actors and their ability to convey ages and the passing of time. Seeing Roz, Margo, and Anthony mature their characters over the span of the play is just as enchanting as Duyen reverting from an elderly mother to an ambition young adult.
Finally, this production cannot be spoken about without mentioning the quilts. Besides their obvious impact in the story, being the items that made the Pettways renowned, the play never fails to show the importance of the pieces in their lives. With the quilts present at picnics, births, deaths, and as blankets to ward off a chilly church or a lonely doorstep at night, the audience is constantly reminded of the amount of history that each rag-tag piece holds.
All in all, this production is very worth the experience. It has all the lighthearted humor of a close, small-town family while never being afraid of paying full respect to the intense moments and the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement.
Gee's Bend will be playing at MetroStage from September 12th to November 3rd.