Young playwright Jessica Dickey seems to specialize in Americana and its people. Her debut was The Amish Project followed by Charles Ives Take Me Home. Dickey’s current work at the Bloomington Playwrights Project Row After Row, focuses on the American Civil War.
A yearly reenactment of Pickett’s disastrous charge is the background. Cal and Tom, Michael Sheehan and Paul C Daily are a couple of veteran reenactors. For years they’ve celebrated the day with beer at a special table in a cozy tavern richly realized by designer David Wade. This year, there’s another reenactor there. Not only is she invading their space, but she’s a she, Leah played by Emily Radke.
Cal participates as a Confederate cavalry officer. He’s pretty critical of Leah, especially about small details of her gray private’s uniform. Tom who portrays a Yankee deserter is a good deal less critical. Their conversation wanders a good bit, but as David Anspaugh’s direction illuminates Dickey’s script we see that the reenacting is a critical part of Cal’s life and the passion is something that Leah has found intoxicating. Tom, with his first child coming seems less and less attached.
Throughout the production of Row After Row scenes from the present in the tavern alternate with ones from the actual battle. In addition there are mixtures that if examined don’t make sense, but work fine in the play. Tom, as a deserter in hiding is captured by Leah. Then he actually helps her to properly dress and handle her rifle. Cal talks of his soldiers and a mysterious ghostly lady who has visited them with a kiss in their tents while Leah emotionally describes her mix of passionate reactions to men in battle.
Aaron Bowersox’s lighting does some very fine work in focusing the action both statically and dynamically while the sound design of David Sheehan with cello arrangements by Joshua McClain add to the atmosphere.
Jessica Dickey’s Row After Row plays at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project through February 11
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker