Marietta Hedges

Marietta Hedges



NY Theater Review by Joshua Rose


I wanted to like it. It’s an important story that needs to be told. About a violent time in our nation’s history and some of the people whose lives were forever altered by it. These people were forgotten by history, but their stories are our history and they are stories that need to be told, and heard, and learned. Sadly, Selma65 written by Catherine Filloux, doesn’t do a very good job of telling those stories. Or any story.

I understand that some avant-garde theatre want you leaving the theater not sure of what it meant or even what it was. They want you to engage your brain and invest energy into thinking about the piece and what it means to you. This was not that kind of theater. And if it was supposed to be, it shouldn’t have been.

The story is supposed to be about the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a 39 year old white housewife, mother, and civil rights activist from Michigan who drove down to participate in and help with the voting rights marches that went from Selma to Montgomery in March of 1965. Mrs Liuzzo was shot to death on a back road by four Klansmen while driving Leroy Moton, 19, back to Selma. Mr Moton survived by playing dead while covered in Mrs Liuzzo’s blood. One of the Klansmen who participated in the murder was Gary “Tommy” Rowe, an informant on the Ku Klux Klan for the FBI. When he testified against the other participants in the shooting, and for his service as an informant on the KKK, Tommy was placed into witness protection. The FBI also tried to posthumously impune Mrs Liuzzo’s character in order to negate any bad press they might receive after their connection to the murder became clear. I got most of this information not from the play, but from wikipedia after the show. It’s an important story and people need to know it.

Selma65 uses one actress, Marietta Hedges, to portray both Viola and Tommy. A one-woman-show, the play is filled not with monologues, but dialogues where you don’t hear the other side of the conversation. It’s as if Ms Filloux, took a script for a full cast and simply cut out all the lines spoken by characters other than Viola and Tommy. This leaves the audience constantly trying to interpret what is said to figure out what we didn’t get to hear. Eleanor Holdridge’s understated directing and Ms Hedge’s understated acting only serve to increase the audience’s confusion as transitions from one character to another are sometimes abrupt and often unclear.

The set/ projection design by Kris Stone, inspired by a running poetic storytelling device about the foreboding nature of trees in the South, is evocative if a bit distracting. The lighting by Andrew F. Griffin was cold, colorless, and did little to help communicate the changes in time, place, character, or mood – despite changing often. The costumes by Suttirat Larlarb didn’t get in the way, until the director and actress abandoned the costume clues that were supposed to help us understand who Ms Hedges was portraying at any given time.

I wanted to like Selma65. I really tried to like it, but in the end the play got in the way of the story.

Selma65 runs 75 minutes, without intermission, at the La MaMa 1st Floor Theater 74 E 4th Street, through October 12th. Tickets at or by calling 646-430-5374.

Photo: Steven Schreiber