Racial segregation in Alabama in 1932 provides a perfect melting pot for the play's three characters. Tice Hogan (Colin McFarlane) is an intelligent black man, living an isolated existence in his log cabin with his feisty daughter, Cali (Lorna Brown). He escapes by reading and quoting Karl Marx, whilst she takes in laundry from rich folk, sometimes gaining more than pay - collecting odd shoes that fall from their sheets. Humdrum, until a knock at the door brings them a visitor- Corbin Steele (Gideon Turner), a white man, seeking refuge after committing a vicious crime.
Slowly but surely, the three 'lost' characters begin to gain strength from each other. The white stranger is attracted to Cali, and she, in turn is provided with a dream, following years of minor details. Her father loves to teach others, so answers Corbin’s plea to help him read.
This beautiful play throws three ‘prisoners’ from a troubled time together and we watch in awe as they lose their shackles, exploring their souls, beliefs and destinies. At times erotic and highly charged, Wallace paints a vivid world which Shaw portrays with tiny strokes, allowing the audience to read each repressed movement.
The characters cross a social divide and present an idealistic view of each other which ultimately leads to a sad but inevitable climax. Watching them, trying desperately to trust one another in a world which separates them is engrossing.
Controlling, dangerous and full of dashed hopes, this play has so many strands which interlock expertly.
All three performers deliver powerful turns; Brown, touching in her everyday tasks, back to the stranger yet never taking her eyes off him. Turner strips away his character’s façade showing how vulnerable he is, likewise McFarlane majestically strides across the set, masking his fear.
At times Shaw’s direction falters in the final act as the play could end several times. But for the main, this is a stunning play, carried by the consistently terrific trio.
- Glenn Meads