BWW Review: NECESSARY SACRIFICES at Taproot Theatre
NECESSARY SACRIFICES at Taproot Theater is both necessary and a gift to audiences. In a time of great division, this show reaches deep into the psyche of our nation and reminds us how even those with great differences can work together. With compelling dialogue, witty and heartfelt performances, and the absence of distractions, NECESSARY SACRIFICES wastes no time in showing us what it means to be guided by the better angels of our nature.
NECESSARY SACRIFICES by Richard Hellesen is set during the Civil War and takes a close look at the daring figures of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. The story centers around two meetings between the men in 1863 and 1864. With separate missions and unwavering passion for their goals, the two must find a way to form a partnership. They quickly learn that hearing each other speak their own truth is how they will build a foundation of trust. With virtually no physical action, the words of the Lincoln and Douglas are all that are needed to move mountains and change the course of a nation.
Lamar Legend (Frederick Douglas) and Ted Rooney (Abraham Lincoln) do the heavy lifting in this show. With rarely a moment to catch their breath, they breathe life into the words of Douglas and Lincoln. Legend moves with the passion and conviction of a man on a righteous mission. His eyes brim with hope and the vulnerability of one who knows the future is often out of his control. Rooney brings us many sides of Lincoln. His open demeanor and easy manners show us a less formal side of Lincoln. His command of Lincoln's words that carry the weight of the world, make you sit up and listen. However it is the quiet moments, when he was earnestly listening, connecting to the struggles of another human being that make you love him most. The two together show halves that are infinitely different yet find common ground. The genius of both is their ability to depict the evolution of the relationship with such subtlety and clarity.
Scenic design by Mark Lund is simplicity at its best. There are just enough items for the actors to engage without causing distractions. Lighting by Brian Engel enhances the setting and helps shape the mood as Lincoln and Douglas negotiate. If I were forced to find a flaw in the show, I could only think of one possible thing. When Lincoln puts his feet up on the table, it reveals the soles of his shoes that appear brand new and clean - certainly out of place for 1864 in the face of war shortages. Otherwise, the costuming by Pete Rush is spot on and even a point of interest, especially for Douglas. I especially enjoyed noting the slight changes that demonstrated how the war aged Lincoln. The show is a complete package to be savored.
NECESSARY SACRIFICES is a show that covers both familiar and unfamiliar territory. The Civil War is a time with an infinite amount of stories and viewpoints to tell. This show zooms in on two of the most prominent figures of the time to study how their separate priorities came together to move the nation ahead. The push and pull, the eloquent speeches and active listening are a lesson to us today. Their wisdom and leadership helped forge a new vision for our nation. In their pursuit of good, they are forced to accept the enormous difficulty it is to effect change. They are confronted with the harsh reality of the necessary sacrifices of progress. Together they press ahead and mourn for what they cannot save. Their words and wisdom continue to resonate through the ages.
NECESSARY SACRIFICES is playing at the Taproot Theatre now through October 26th. For tickets or more information, visit www.taproottheatre.org.