The Westport Country Playhouse has concluded their rather uneven season with a solid revival of “From the Mississippi Delta” by Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland. The memory play based on Holland’s life was first seen in Connecticut in 1991 at Hartford Stage. In Hartford I recall being blown away by Holland’s journey set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. It was a more muted response from me in Westport.
“From the Mississippi Delta” is a series of vignettes – some humorous, some horrific, some quite moving – about life in the area between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in the northwest of the state of Mississippi and how one woman overcame obstacles there in order to become a doctor. Three women (Claudia Logan, Tameishia Peterson, Erin Margaret Pettigrew) play a variety of characters – old and young, black and white, men and women – and also each play the good doctor at various points in her life. The actors all have their moments with scenes that depict childbirth, a graduation, a funeral, but Pettigrew seems the most connected in her various roles. With the addition of commentary about the Civil Rights movement, the play takes on some added weight but it remains personal storytelling that often resonates but still stalls here and there.
Part of the problem at Westport is Jason Ardizzone-West’s mammoth scenic design which depicts a two story, slat wooden structure. In a play that craves intimacy, the WCP set nearly devours the cast along with their stories. As a result, director Goldie E. Patrick has to continually keep her actors busy utilizing the various stage areas, climbing stairs, etc. It is also a play that would benefit from being performed without intermission so the flow of the stories is uninterrupted.
John D. Alexander’s lighting creates several stunning stage pictures throughout and composer Michael Keck has contributed some effective, melancholy music. All told, this is a well-acted and mostly engrossing biographical drama.
“From the Mississippi Delta” continues at the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court in Westport through October 30. Masks are suggested but not required. For further information, call the box office at: 203.227.4177 or visit: www.westportplayhouse.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.