|when Frederick met Susan (Mikell Sapp and
Emily Gunyou Halaas, photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
|Frederick and Susan in their later years (Emily Gunyou Halaas
and Mikell Sapp, photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)
The story takes place in multiple locations on the East Coast over 46 years, and rather try to depict them all realistically, the set (designed by Sarah Brander) is a more abstract background that works for all of the locations. Several large empty frames, sometimes used as doorways, hang throughout the multi-level stage, with just a few period set pieces (a trunk, wardrobe, desk) as reference. We sometimes see the actors changing clothes on the side of the stage as they ready for the next scene, so that the two actors rarely leave the stage. And speaking of the clothes, the detailed period clothing includes a parade of gorgeous full hoop skirts (which Emily navigates and manipulates as if she's been wearing hoop skirts all her life). And a shout-out to wig designer Robert A. Dunn for realistically replicating the iconic looks of both of these historical figures as they age.
The Agitators opens at the end of a week that saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's historic and emotional testimony before the senate committee regarding the appropriateness of a Supreme Court nominee. Dr. Ford is an agitator, a role I don't think she ever wanted, but one she stepped up to fill when called upon to fight for the rights of women, victims, and the powerless to be heard and to be told they matter. Several scenes in the play feel particularly relevant this week, when Susan speaks of the many women she knows who are raped or beaten with no recourse; women at the time could not own property, vote, or divorce their husbands. That may have changed, but the dilemma of women not speaking up at personal injustices because no one will listen has obviously, painfully not. Another particularly resonant line is Frederick telling Susan upon their first meeting that the only thing harder than listening to a black man is hearing him.
The Agitators is full of such moments, and manages to be educational and political without being preachy or dry, in fact it's quite entertaining. It's exactly the play I needed this week, and what we all need to remind us to vote and continue to agitate! Agitate!! Agitate!!!
The Agitators continues through October 28 on Park Square Theatre's main stage (with the very funny, real, and feminist Sometimes There's Wine playing on their second stage downstairs).