by: Sandi Durell
In this re-enactment of Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, playwright Jessica Dickey tackles a variety of issues, first and foremost the death of the many Confederate soldiers who fell mercilessly, row after row on Cemetery Ridge. At first glance, the story-telling aspect relates the historical overview as Leah (Rosie Benton) meets Tom (Erik Lochtefeld) and Cal (PJ Sosko) and the opening scene is a flashback to this re-enactment of battle – Tom (a Union deserter) and Cal (a tough Confederate colonel) engaging as loud gunfire is heard.
As an aside, I must mention the three ladies and their 3 ‘service dogs’ sitting in a front row on the side – the dogs quiet until the loud blasts went off and then . . . barking to punctuate and add to the mayhem.
Tom and Cal have been living in Gettysburg all their lives and participating in this yearly re-enactment of the battle – – their precision and attention to detail in clothing, carrying and using a musket extremely important. Leah has recently moved back to the area and decided to join in the Battle and is accused of “Farbing” (which has something to due with lack of historical authenticity in dress and behavior and the fact that she’s a woman).
As they meet in the old Tavern (the outer areas filled with logs and wood chips), post battle, to congratulate themselves with a beer, the newbie in their midst, Leah, is cause for disruption and rude behavior on Cal’s part as he baits and makes fun of women as re-enactors.
Leah, a gal with strong feminist views and her own emotional baggage, verbally bashes Cal about his negative feelings on the topic of women on the battlefield, opening up a cauldron of discussion, memories and topical views on all their parts, as scenes change from flashbacks to present. There is lots of use of the f*** word (which I frankly don’t understand to get a point across), a part of the contemporary language and writings that pervade many recent plays.
The playwright gets her many points across, however, as she raises racial, social and political issues in this comedy/drama; the discussions boiling down to who are we as people – are we capable of ever coming together. “Wowser” – that’s the big question that needs answering!
There are poignant and animated performances from all three actors, each one dealing with their own apprehensions, as Daniella Topol keeps a tight hand on the direction. The set and costume design are by Clint Ramos.
“Row After Row” produced by the Women’s Project Theater plays at New York City Center Stage II, 131 W. 55 St., NYC www.nycitycenter.org – thru Feb. 16th – running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, no intermission