Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Unlike Angels, which uses its epic scope to address universal issues of life, truth, and healing a world in turmoil, Caroline is a chamber piece that looks at issues of civil rights and understanding through the experiences of a single family. Kushner draws on his childhood in a Jewish family in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the family's African-American housekeeper to create a society in microcosm.
Most of the characters are motivated by their emotions, overt and hidden, and director Matthew Gardiner ably draws out and clarifies their different viewpoints as they conflict, overlap, ignore each other, and sometimes resolve themselves. He also understands the role of fantasy, showing that it's perfectly understandable for Caroline Thibodeaux (Nova Y. Payton) to anthropomorphize the objects of her daily life: the kindly Washing Machine (Theresa Cunningham); the insinuating Dryer (V. Savoy McIlwain); the harmonious Radio (Felicia Curry, Olivia Russell, Kara-Tameika Watkins); and the benevolent Moon (Delores King Williams).
Change is in the air in 1963; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech earlier in the year and activists are taking steps toward the end of institutional racism (including the abduction of a statue of a Confederate soldier from outside the Lake Charles courthouse). Caroline, a divorced mother of four, works for the Gellman family, whose young son Noah (Griffin McCahill) is looking for someone he can hold on to.
Noah has good reason to feel isolated. His father (Will Gartshore) has submerged himself in grief following his wife's death; he tried to make a new start by marrying Rose Stopnick (Dorea Schmidt), his wife's best friend, but she's a New Yorker still trying to find her way in the South. Caroline is often harsh and bitter, but at least she pays attention to Noahand he wishes he could be one of her children.
Payton brings majesty and grace to her portrayal, shining especially in her extended solos (one could call them arias). Other standouts are McCahill; Schmidt, bringing great heart to a small but important role; Scott Sedar as Rose's combative father; and Korinn Walfall as Caroline's daughter, a budding activist.
Round House Theatre