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Ohio State Murders this afternoon.
Last Edit: Delvino 06:19 pm EST 11/26/22
Posted by: Delvino 06:08 pm EST 11/26/22

As predictable as the triumph for McDonald might be, she still surprises. For me the greatest attribute of this performance is her restraint, resisting even a single moment of indulgent emotion. Of course that's arguably a given in any McDonald characterization (and I found it revelatory in Frankie and Johnny), yet in this piece, which hangs on a dark thread of near melodrama, she refuses to render even the most unsettling turns with more than is earned. Because she incrementally reveals the tightly sealed lid on this woman's well of pain -- she could easily dissolve, simply recounting the horrors that befall her -- she makes the tragic trajectory more gripping.

I can't say that Kennedy's play feels as noteworthy in 2022, though -- no spoilers -- its depiction of racism in academia circa 1949-1951 in the first half is decidedly startling and informative, as much as we know about segregation and race biases on the cusp of the Eisenhower era. The plot proper, which has a whiff of early Neil Labute, unavoidably (fully acknowledging that no such oeuvre existed at the time Kennedy wrote it), is certainly illustrative of America in any time. Yet we're perhaps as angered early on by the shocking institutional racism as the ultimate violence that provides the play's title. This woman's life is marginalized, educational opportunity withheld far before the worst happens. For me, that's the historic takeaway:

MILD DESIGN SPOILER: Boritt's set, which some admire in a handful of posts, struck me as tonally wrong. A stylized use of floating bookcases and off-center stand-ins for furniture feels twee, precious. And it's distracting when the playing environment most needs to recede from the story being told.

But by the end, McDonald on Broadway is an an event and here ultimately the event.
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