Steven Walters' new drama, Booth takes an unorthodox approach to the Lincoln assassination. Walters eliminates the presence of Lincoln altogether, and makes John Wilkes Booth, the assassin, also the protagonist. It certainly doesn't hurt that Booth's nemesis, Edwin “Mars” Stanton (Secretary of War under Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson) is depicted with such merciless ferocity. When Stanton condemns Mary Surratt (suspected of complicity) to execution, we're forced to question his judgment. Which is not to say Booth is sympathetic, though possibly more comprehensible than we might have expected. We all know it's far more interesting to deconstruct the archetype of villainy, and Walters makes use of that compelling strategy, with nary a violin in evidence. We're given ample opportunity to grasp his intensity, his narcissism, his zeal, his desperation, his duplicity. Booth clearly demonstrates his propensity for committing such a despicable act. As so many other Southerners, he probably felt helpless, frustrated, castigated, but with Booth's peculiar brand of theatrical solipsism and charisma, he probably felt invincible.
Booth cuts back and forth between the time immediately following Lincoln's assassination and the events leading up to it. We see the clandestine way in which Booth enlists confederates (he tells them it will be a kidnapping) and the waxing of his delusional state as he hides from the authorities. Booth divides the formidable cast of 14 into 4 categories : Targets, Hunters, Associates and Conspirators. Targets include Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, his Vice President, Hunters : Stanton, Thomas Eckert, Henry H. Wells and the other gentlemen who go after Booth, et al, Associates : Booth's brother Edwin and his fiancee' Lucy Hale, etc, and Conspirators, the Confederate spies and cronies who colluded with Booth. Needless to say, Walters, working with Erik Achilla thoroughly researched this ensemble piece, and the ripple effect of Booth's actions is vividly evinced by the various roles.
Booth is an admirable, absorbing, fierce and poignant drama, with much to recommend it. Steven Walters meticulously lays out his narrative (or weaves it) with a desire to communicate the political zeitgeist behind the events, and the flawed humanity behind the characters. Walters has sought to bring clarity, objectivity and revelation to one of history's great tragedies, by coming at it from a very fresh and intriguing point of view. He doesn't need to state the obvious or tell us what to feel. Simply put, he's brought something new to a very familiar story.
Cast : Emily Scott Banks, Andrews Cope, Stan Denman, R Bruce Elliott, Ian Ferguson, Ted Gwara, Mikaela Krantz, Frank Mosley, Aaron Roberts, Brandon Sterrett, Travis Stuebing, Montgomery Sutton, Austin Terrell and Drew Wall.
Second Thought Theatre presents: Steven Michael Walters' Booth (The Plot and Capture of John Wilkes Booth) playing May 21st-June14th, 2014. Bryant Hall on the Kalita Humphreys Campus, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, TX 75219. 866-811-4111. 2TT.co