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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Sockdology Presented at Marin Theatre

Also see Richard's review of This is Our Youth


Have you ever wondered what happened backstage at the Ford Theatre after President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth? Needless to say, since Mr. Booth was a well known actor, all actors were suspected as being part of a conspiracy. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher attempts to answer that question in his play Sockdology. The Marin Theatre has presented the west coast premier of this historical play and the production is interesting and well acted.

Jeffrey Hatcher is primarily known as the co-author of the hilarious musical Everything's Ducky and the sole author of a new version of Henry James' Turn of the Screw. Mr. Hatcher had an excellent idea in dramatizing that fateful night and he makes an interesting recreation of the events of the night of April 15, 1865. The interrogation of the actors is well done in the second act and there is a certain amount of mystery, as most of the actors have something to hide. Their secrets and their manipulations, under the glare of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's hard questioning, causes chaos in their ranks.

The first act is mostly in a comic vein, as the actors of Laura Keene's troupe banter back and forth with petty jealousy among themselves. The second act turns more serious when Mr. Stanton becomes the "bad cop" in questioning the actors. The phrase that the actor used just as Lincoln was shot is used several times through the play: "sockdolager." It was, at the time, a slang boxing term for a stunning blow, and Mr. Stanton thinks it could have been a key word for the assassin to enter the presidential box to kill Mr. Lincoln.

Amy Resnick plays the company's leader Laura Keene, an old time theatrical lady of the stage with a voice that was well trained in melodramatic acting. She gives a sharp performance throughout the entire play. Mark Philips plays her assistant and gives his usual good performance as a somewhat weak actor. Will Marchetti gives a strong performance as Edwin Stanton and he is very zealous as the authority figure when he interrogates the actors either from the stage or from the aisles of the theater. Michael James who played a southern actor gives a very cultured performance. The rest of the cast is adequate in their roles.

The direction by David Dower is interesting. He is able to maintain the tension of the play, especially in the second act, and he allows his actors to leave the confines of the stage occasionally. Kate Boyd's set gives a flavor of the backstage at Ford Theater even to the point of having gaslight chandeliers in the auditorium. The costumes by Cass Carpeter are authentic. It is a good production and it gives a fascinating insight into the assassination of Mr. Lincoln.

Sockdology closed on February 10th. Marin Theatre Company's next production will be Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. It opens on March 13 and runs through April 7. Tickets range from $24 to $40 and they can be obtained by calling (415)388-5208 or online at www.marintheatre.com.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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