The American Legacy
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"Theatrical archaeologist extraordinaire" - - Back Stage
|Reviews - Power|
Reviewed by Karl Levett
"The more things change, the more they are
same," observed 19th-century French critic Alphonse Karr, and Power
— a play detailing hard times in the 20th century, now getting a
revival for hard times in the 21st — proves it's true.
The Metropolitan Playhouse, theatrical archaeologist extraordinaire, has ambitiously undertaken to re-create Power on its limited playing space with a cast of nine, each playing umpteen roles. As in other Living Newspaper Unit productions, almost all the words spoken are direct newspaper quotations. After a brief history of the coming of electricity, the battle for control lines up, with examples given from news sources all over the country. This accretion filled with arcane details comes at a dizzying speed and surely held the 1937 audience in thrall. Those details might not prove as absorbing to contemporary theatregoers, but when the play begins to focus on the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, it springs alive and gains a personality of its own.
Director Mark Harborth is responsible for the remarkable clockwork pacing and for choosing a talented cast full of pleasing contrasts. Michael Hardart is the affable, bow-tied, boater-wearing master of ceremonies, Rafael Jordan ably conveys a parcel of struggling everymen, Alfred Gingold adds gravitas with his poor farmers and Supreme Court justices, and Sidney Fortner ranges from slippery businessmen to gun-toting grannies. (Fortner also designed the multiple costumes the cast changes into with incredible alacrity.) In addition, there's abundant assistance from Scott Casper, Toya Nash, Jason Szamreta, Eric C. Bailey, and Jenny Greeman.
For any enthusiast who, after paying the Con Ed bill, wants to know more about the Work Projects Administration, the Federal Theater Project, or just how little times have changed, Power brings history to living, breathing life.