The Civil War has to be one of the most colorful events in our nation’s history. That is why movies like “Glory” and “Gone With the Wind” are so popular. Steppenwolf Theatre continues it’s war series with its Civil War offering , “The March” The play is a fictionalized account of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Based on a novel by EL Doctorow, it tells the points of view of various characters as they react to a changing world.
A lot of veterans that have appeared in other shows I have enjoyed make up this cast, as well as some new faces to the Steppenwolf stage. Shannon Matesky, who last appeared in Goodman’s “RACE” plays the pivotal role of the young slave girl, Pearl. She changes the most in the course of the play. This truly shows her dramatic range as an actress. Ian Barford, who last graced the Steppenwolf stage in “Penelope” showed his comedic talent as the turncoat Confederate soldier who joins the Union army, Arly. He takes an amusing smartass character and changes him into a totally different person. Carrie Coon’s Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was amazing and Carrie was in this show. Emily had that Scarlett O Hara kind of quality in her character. She grew stronger as she watched her world crumble around her, yet she yearned to return to her ancestral home. In her heart, she knew this was not to be. As Paul Robeson in Lookinglass’s “Mr Rickey Calls a Meeting”, James Vincent Meredith was a charmer , not totally unlike his character of Coalhouse Walker. Coalhouse sets out and charms the newly freed slave, Wilma who faces the uncertainty of freedom. (Alana Arenas) Veteran Harry Greener is the General William Tecumseh Sherman. He plays Sherman with a maniacal , egotistical personality but also has fun as he conquers the South. Philip R Smith last appeared in the powerful drama “Trust” at Lookingglass. As Dr Sartorius, Smith shows a very kind and humane side of war and the cruelties of it. Smith ‘s portrayal of the Civil War surgeon reminded me of another war surgeon. Alan Alda’s Hawkeye. Stephen Louis Grush rounded out the cast as the young soldier who is led astray, Will Kirkland. He shined with his character’s degree of naivete of the world around him.
The music and sound effects transport the audience member back to this time. It is truly a play that surrounds the audience with a sensory experience. Cast members also play and sing songs from the time period. This adds to the flavor of the play and makes for an enjoyable evening of theatre. “The March” continues until June 10 at Steppenwolf Theatre. For more info call the theatre.