Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Southbridge at Chicago Dramatists | Theater review

Southbridge at Chicago Dramatists | Theater review

Reginald Edmund’s dramatization of an 1881 lynching strains to hit plot points.
Photograph: Jeff Pines Manny Buckley and Wendy Robie in Southbridge at Chicago Dramatists
By Zac Thompson |

In 1881, a young biracial man named Christopher Davis was lynched by a mob in Athens, Ohio. He was accused of raping and brutally beating Lucinda Luckey, a widow for whom he had done some work around the house. A band of armed men eventually took Davis from jail, got him to confess to the crime and hanged him from a bridge over the Hocking River.

This disgraceful incident serves as the jumping-off point for playwright Reginald Edmund, who takes a good deal of creative license in his new dramatization of the case. In his version, Christopher (Manny Buckley, whose heart isn’t in it) is a visionary who can see into other people’s souls. Confined to a jail cell as the angry townspeople gather outside, Christopher recounts for the sheriff (Gene Cordon)—and we see in flashback—how his gift led to a special connection with the lonely Widow Luckey, played by Wendy Robie with an affecting mix of wistfulness and desperation.

Edmund rearranges the record so that Christopher and the widow have a consensual affair—a development in which we feel the heavy hand of a playwright straining to hit plot points. Despite Russ Tutterow’s muffled production, Edmund generates some excitement toward the end, as he uncovers who actually attacked Lucinda. But too much of the script before that is composed of repetitive, wheel-spinning passages in which characters reiterate their motivations and return over and over to the same semi-lyrical lines about trees, dreams and seeing.

More to explore