Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Take What Is Yours explores an interesting time in our history

Take What is Yours brings to life a fascinating story from the history of the United States.  It is the story of Women’s Suffrage in general, and suffragette Alice Paul in particular.  The Women’s Right to Vote, is rarely thought of as a contentious issue.  This play illuminates the struggle that was all too real for women in the 1910 and 1920s.
The story takes place in 1917, Alice Paul and other women were silently picketing outside of the White House and were arrested for obstructing traffic.  Tempers ran hot during the "Great War", and so the women were incarcerated for 3 weeks to 7 months.  Defining herself as a political prisoner, Alice Paul began a hunger strike, which resulted in her being committed to a prison’s psychiatric ward and forcibly fed.  Take What is Yours is an exploration of this episode in our history.  Erica Fae plays Alice Paul excellently.  Ms. Fae also conceived and co-wrote the piece.

This is not a show with character arcs, complex interactions and major dramatic tension.  Co-writer, Director and scenic concept artist Jill A. Samuals stages the performance remarkably well, bringing a vitality to what is essentially an expository story about the Women’s Vote through the eyes of Alice Paul.  There is also some excellent video footage and music to bring life to the play.
But it is still an expository story, and the introduction of other characters is awkward.  “The Man” exists as a character only to provide a sounding board for Alice.  Wayne Maugans does a fine job with the character, but he is essentially there to keep Alice talking.
At other points, for example when Alice Paul speaks to Congress or Judges, Erica Fae plays both roles – sometimes telling the audience what they said, and sometimes speaking their lines.  It feels like a one woman show which the creative team has tried to open up.  The effort to open up the story has been reasonably successful and engaging, but the character of Alice Paul is rather static.  She is a heroic, stoic figure which doesn’t give the audience much chance to invest themselves in her plight.  It is too bad, since many in the audience wanted to connect with Alice; but, by the end of the show, the unrelenting suffering put nearly everyone off.
Take What is Yours has extra resonance, opening on May 9th, the day President Obama came out in favor of Same Sex Marriage.  The obvious parallels do expand the story beyond simple the right of Women to Vote, and grow the story to encompass the right of all minorities to participate in our Democracy.  It is an interesting story to watch unfold.
Take What Is Yours at 59E59 Theaters
Playwrights: Erica Fae and Jill A. Samuels
Director: Jill A. Samuels
Cast: Erica Fae, Wayne Maugans

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