Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Rose in America
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's review of The Invisible Hand

Charles Dean and AeJay Mitchell
Photo by David Allen
AlterTheater performs racially diverse work by the Bay Area's best established and developing artists in highly visible performance spaces, mostly in storefronts in downtown San Rafael. They are currently presenting the world premiere of Michelle Carter's powerful Rose in America for the first time in downtown San Francisco at A.C.T. Costume Shop Theater on Market Street.

Rose in America explores the deep divide between generations and between races when it comes to activism. Themes of power and agency underlie the two-hour drama with each of the characters having a claim of disadvantage in America.

The play takes place in 2008. Three African-American grad students (Nkechi Emeruwa, Darian Lockett, and AeJay Mitchell) want to revive a play that Wally (Charles Dean) wrote sometime back which opened at the Pasadena Playhouse. Wally's play was about a real live person, Viola Liuzzo, a white woman from Detroit who drove the civil rights marchers back and forth during the Selma March. She was assassinated in 1965 while driving the African-American marchers to Selma.

Wally was involved in the Mattachine Society, a fledgling gay group in the 1950s, and his partner Jack (John Patrick Moore) was involved in the Radial Faeries group in the 1980s, so they knew what prejudice was like. Wally invites the three to his home to talk about black activism. The challenging confrontations among them are knife sharp. There are also several uplifting songs in this production by Tony the Scribe.

As Regina Victoria Fields, who beautifully directed this amazing drama, has said, "We are in a time of great change, and Rose in America interrogates how to find your place in a movement, a particularly relevant question for our present moment with the presidential election coming up."

Fields has assembled a cast of five superb actors to present this thought-provoking drama. Charles Dean is fantastic as the aging Wally. His distinguished voice rings across the intimate stage. Nkechi Emeruwa, Darian Lockett, and AeJay Mitchell give stunning performances as the three students and John Patrick Moore is pitch perfect as Jack.

Rose in America is a striking play about the world we live in, with political disagreement and institutional violence like the recent tragedy in Orlando.

Rose in America plays at the A.C.T. Costume Shop Theater, 1117 Market Street, San Francisco through June 19, 2915. It reopens in San Rafael at 729 Fourth Street, (at Cijos) on June 22nd and runs through July 3rd. For tickets call 415-454-2787 on visit

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