The Carpetbagger's Children at Ford's Theatre

Walking into the theatre for this performance was like sinking into a warm bath after a day playing in the snow. It's cozily lit, like a sunset. The soft lighting set the mood for the rest of Horton Foote's play, The Carpetbagger's Children. It is the story of three sisters, daughters of a "carpetbagger" - someone who moved from the North to the South during Reconstruction. The play is made up almost entirely of monologues from three incredibly talented actresses - Nancy Robinette, Kim Schraf, and Holly Twyford. Foote's vivid language combined with the extraordinary storytelling abilities of these women provides beautifully painted images. Though well-written, it is not a dynamic story; I was calmed, soothed by the words.

I was particularly interested in the fact that the same story was told over and over, but from different perspectives. Each sister had a slightly different spin, a different emphasis on what happened to them. Twyford, as always, makes everything funny that should be - often making things funnier than they would be if they were played by anyone else - but is also incredibly poignant when necessary. Robinette completely pulls the audience into her stories. She is utterly mesmerizing. All of them are very adept at making sure each character involved in the story is clearly marked by voice and posture.

The set is sparse, just a rocking chair, a table, and two chairs. Framed photographs litter the table, and Schraf, when she's not speaking, writes in a book, obviously working on the books for the estate. Grace Anne (Robinette), sits slightly apart from Cornelia (Schraf) and Sissie (Twyford) in her rocking chair, marking the rift that happened in the family when she eloped with an unsuitable beau. Scenic designer Robin Stapley uses minimalism to great effect. The costuming was superbly simple, though I was slightly confused by the sparkly beads on Schraf's skirt - they seemed a little out of place to me, but otherwise Helen Huang did excellent work.

When I left the theatre, I felt relaxed and happy. This is not a show that I would say GO RIGHT NOW, though I completely recommend it. I realize this may sound like I was bored, the contrary is more accurate. My attention was focused on stage the entire time, but I wasn't tense or held in suspense. For a painless history lesson and a class on exquisite acting, go see this show. You'll be glad that you did. 4 stars.

The Carpetbagger's Children
by Horton Foote
directed by Mark Ramont
through February 13


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