Monday, 10 October 2016


      This challenging, funny and at times creepy play written by and starring Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard begins in a West Virginia barn in the mid-9th century. A runaway slave meets a noble Quaker abolitionist who will escort her across the Mason-Dixon line. The acting in the scene moves from naturalistic to something so melodramatic that it is almost Brechtian. What we are actually seeing is a scene between enacted by two middle-school teachers in front of an assembly. The teachers are introducing the new unit on the Civil War. The audience becomes the group of middle school students who will be assigned to play the Underground Railway Game. We are also witness to the budding, then violently evolving, relationship of the two teachers, a white male and an African-American woman, sometimes played out in public, sometimes in private. The play is really a meditation on the ways in which race, gender and sex can clash. Can Americans, white and black, escape our country's racial history? Can well-meaning liberals ever understand their own racism? I don't want to give away too much of what happens during the seventy-five minutes of this work. Surprise is part of its pleasure and challenge. UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME is amusing at times, disturbing at others. It is definitely not for the prudish.
     Co-creators Kidwell and Sheppard are also excellent performers. Director Taibi Magar has given the piece the right look and excellent timing.
      I saw the play on the matinee after the infamous tape of Trump's sex talk was published. The play's many uses of "pussy" received particularly uncomfortable laughter from the audience.

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