The American Bard Theatre Company recently presented “Visionary Voices: 2 Women Writers—3 Big Stories.” The writers featured were Susan Glaspell and Marita Bonner; the one-act plays were, “Trifles,” “Exit: An Illusion,” and “The People.” These women were essayists, journalists and playwrights who wrote about women experiencing sexism, racism and abusive relationships.
“Trifles” and “The People” were very deep productions. “Trifles” dealt with a woman whose husband is murdered and she has been arrested for the crime. He was hung by a rope while he lay in bed next to her. As the lawmen from Nebraska come to this isolated farmhouse to try and figure out what happened, the audience gets to find out more details about the life of this couple. Two women, one of them the wife of the sheriff, and the other a childhood friend of the accused, let the audience see the wife as a sympathetic character in a loveless marriage. Her husband was a cold man and she had no friends. Her only source of joy was a small bird and it had its neck broken. “Trifles” leaves you feeling the suffering and pain that women, especially back in those times, just had to sit and endure. With “The People,” Glaspell shows how passionate people can become about being inspired by the written word. It is about an antiestablishment paper called The People that gives people a voice and hope but seems to be going out of business. The publisher of the paper is ready to throw in the towel until he meets a few people who his stories have inspired. This play lets one realize the special significance of the press and the written word.
“Exit: An Illusion” was a piece by Bonner, an African-American playwright. This play portrays Dot, a Black girl who is light enough to pass for white and is apparently actively doing so, and her Black boyfriend Buddy, who physically abuses her. She is ill and talks about having to go on a date with Exit Man, a White man. Buddy gets angry about this date and takes out a gun, threatening to shoot her and the Exit Man when he arrives. Exit Man stands in the doorway with his back to the audience and when Dot goes by the doorway the lights go out and a shot is fired. Moments later Dot is in bed, bleeding and calling Buddy’s name. He is asleep on the floor. She wants him to love her. He doesn’t hear her calling. After she dies he wakes up and cries over her death. This one-act was disappointing because it was very short and disjointed, and did not have a clear message for the audience. If anything it just left one
with a lot of questions.
Overall, experiencing the “Visionary Voices” was an interesting evening. It was also nice how the cast of actors performed in the various pieces. They included Morgan McGuire, T. Thompson, Sidiki Fofana, Cheri Wicks, Mel House, Michael Birch, Arthur Aulisi, Chris Harcum, Erin Gilbreth, Carl Fisk, Nihara Nichelle, Madeline Lovegrove and Marisol Soledad. The directors of these one-acts were Aimee Todoroff and Tonya Pinkins. The American Bard Theatre is located
at 151 W. 26th St.