Review by Tulis McCall
(18 Jun 2010)
For those who assume much responsibility, much is expected. Christopher G. Roberts has created monumental goals for himself and in some of them he has succeeded.
Roberts has worked on television and in the theatre both locally and internationally. He has been a dramatic teacher to school children. He has mounted a show Off Broadway with a large cast. This means he had to convince people to back his idea. His idea was an excellent one: Reflections of a Heart is the Story of Isaac C. Woodard who became a rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1940's. Mr. Woodard, after his honorable discharge from the Army, was beaten and blinded by a Sherriff in South Carolina. This is one of those stories that have disappeared from our horizon when it shouldn’t have.
Where Mr. Roberts has not succeeded is in the artistic area of his current endeavor. Roberts is the writer, director and lead actor in this production. At none of these is he successful, and that is too bad.
At the core of this disappointing evening is the text itself that is filled with cliché's and facts that defy belief. After being brought in to the Bronx station for questioning in an assault case, Woodward reveals "The Story" to a cop who doesn't care - thus we have the flashbacks and the transformation of the cop at the climax. This makes the story about the cop, not the main character because the cop is the only one who changes.
There are other moments as well. When first coming out in public with his eyes bandaged, Woodward wears sunglasses. And perhaps the most egregious of all: when a white woman who witnessed his arrest comes to tell him of her organizing work on his behalf, she leans in and kisses him on the cheek. Sorry. Not happening in 1949.
There is a refreshing monologue by Gillian Glascoe as Woodard's mother and some interesting work by Mark Elmore as the Sherrif. But the rest of the cast was either not directed or just plain don’t' know what they are doing most of the time.
I don't know if Mr. Roberts was forced to take on the tri-fecta of responsibilies. The theatre can surprise you with people coming and going, and it's possible these responsibilities were thrust upon him. The upshot is that he multi-tasked for this production. And as the latest research shows that means a person does everything in a mediocre manner.
By not giving himself the chance to focus and bring in people with whom he could collaborate, Mr. Roberts did himself and the story about which he is passionate a disservice.
I hope he keeps his head up and returns with a production that is collaboration in all the best ways possible.