Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Mount Misery
Cutting Ball Theatre

Also see Jeanie's review of Exit, Pursued by a Bear and Patrick's reviews of Mary Poppins and Clean House

Giovanni Adams and David Sinaiko
Cutting Ball Theatre is currently presenting the world premiere of Andrew Saito's intriguing historical drama Mount Misery, subtitled "A Comedy of Enhanced Interrogations." You might say this is somewhat of a fantasy, wherein former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld meets teenage slave Frederick Douglass, who became a prominent American figure in the anti-slavery movement. The playwright was inspired to write a comedy-drama imagining the meeting and relationship of these two across the years.

Donald Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce have bought the plantation where abolitionist Frederick Douglas was a slave. Andrew Saito smoothly blends the plot between two centuries. The audience sees the venomous confrontation with slave owner Edward Covey callously beating the teenage slave. Covey believes it is the most natural thing in the world for a white man to beat a slave. These scenes are reminiscent of the television series "Roots." When Frederick "meets" Donald, he finds consolation and curiosity in the 21st century world.

A father-son relationship soon becomes apparent between the two, and Rumsfeld starts coaching Douglas on how to stand up to Covey. The "father" even thinks there just might be a bid for President in his future. Rumsfeld, who authorized the waterboarding of terrorist prisoners, is consumed with his own guilt. There are many interesting scenes, including a terrifying scene of waterboarding, and a comical section in which Joyce Rumsfeld attempts to teach the young teenager to dance, referring to such distinguished blacks as Nat King Cole, Marian Anderson, and James Brown. The teenager picks up a book in the 21st century which happens to be an autobiography of Frederick Douglas and says "oh, it's written by a negro."

Rob Melrose has assembled a fine cast of four excellent actors to present this comedy-drama. Yes, there is humor in the play, especially with Lorri Holt playing Joyce Rumsfeld. She believes there are household ghosts of the past lurking about. Lorri Holt is a breath of fresh air every time she appears on the stage.

Giovanni Adams, fresh up from Los Angeles, is excellent in the role of the teenage Frederick. He beautifully morphs from a submissive slave to a more demanding individual. David Sinaiko stunningly transforms into Donald Rumsfeld and gives a brilliant performance. Rounding out the cast is Geoffrey Nolan as the slave owner Edward Covey. He gives a vibrant performance and I was reminded of Edward Asner's "Roots."

Director Melrose balances the overlying actions and time period effortlessly. Scenic designer Michael Locher has produced a minimal set for the extremely long stage while Heidi Leigh Hanson's costumes reflect both periods efficiently.

Mount Misery plays through June 7th, 2015, at the Cutting Ball Theatre in residence at EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-525-1205 or visit

Photo: Chase Ramsey

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

- Richard Connema

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