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(en) US, NYC, MEDIA, NYTimes review of play about lucy parsons "A Heroine Who Embraced Reform (and Explosives)"

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 10 Feb 2005 12:52:50 +0100 (CET)

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Day of Reckoning," a play about the anarchist and labor reformer Lucy
Parsons, is unevenly paced and clumsily staged, but it has this saving
grace: Unlike some other theatrical efforts associated with Black History
Month, it is not shallow hero worship. Parsons was a decidedly flawed hero,
and Melody Cooper, the playwright, leaves those flaws in plain sight.
Although Ms. Cooper, who also stars as Parsons in the production now at the
All Stars Project, throws in some time-jumping techniques, the play is
basically a straightforward biography. The first act is set primarily in
Waco, Tex., where Parsons meets the crusading white man who would become her
husband and fellow agitator, Albert Parsons (Christopher Conant). Here we
get the first hint that this mixed-race woman does not quite fit the
black-pride mold: calling herself Lucy Gonzalez and passing as Mexican and
American Indian, she chafes at any suggestion by Albert that she is black.

The play, produced by Five Points Presents ..., doesn't really find its
voice, though, until Act II, when Lucy and Albert, hounded out of Waco by
racist threats, move to Chicago and become involved in the labor movement.
They help organize a major railroad strike in 1877, and Ms. Cooper makes
clear that Lucy Parsons was not far from the violent radicals of the 1960's
and 70's. "I think when we derailed that engine, they finally knew we mean
business," she says of the railroads. And she exhorts her followers, "Learn
to use explosives."

The Parsonses have two children, but their domestic bliss is shattered by
the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which Albert is implicated. In Ms. Cooper's
formulation, his martyrdom causes Lucy to lose her bearings, and their son,
Albert Jr. (David Adams), pays the appalling price. Here again, Lucy is
anything but heroic. By the play's end she has much to atone for. (She died
in a fire in 1942, at 89.)

Ms. Cooper's recounting of this fascinating life, and the interracial love
story at the center of it, could benefit from a large infusion of
understatement; her script milks the many dramatic moments like an
overwrought movie-of-the-week. She has also surrounded herself with actors
who are not as good as she is, a discrepancy that is made even more glaring
by Madelyn Chapman's never subtle direction.

Still, Lucy Parsons's story is one that deserves to be told, especially at a
time when those with radical ideas are again under intense scrutiny.

"Day of Reckoning" is at the All Stars Project, 543 West 42nd Street,
Clinton, through Feb. 27th.

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