Posts Tagged ‘confederates’

by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Elizabeth Carter
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
February 17, 2023

Tatiana Williams, Tiffany Oglesby
Photo by Liz Lauren
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep’s latest production, from celebrated playwright Dominique Morisseau, is one of three regional premieres around the United States. Confederates is an inventively structured look at the lives of two Black women in different situations and historical eras, but who both struggle for freedom in their own ways. With stellar production values and a first-rate cast, this show makes a strong impression and is sure to provoke much thought and conversation. 

The stories play out in interspersed scenes, focusing on Sandra (Tatiana Williams), a professor at a prestigious university, and Sara (Tiffany Oglesby), an enslaved woman on a plantation during the Civil War. Sandra is dealing with various issues, both personal and professional, including a recent divorce, conflicting expectations from her students and colleagues, as well as trying to find out who placed a photoshopped image on the door of her office. Sara, who has grown up on the plantation, helps out her brother Abner (Xavier Scott Evans), who has run away to join the Union Army, and is faced with the unexpected return of Missy Sue (Tracey Greenwood), the daughter of the plantation’s owner, who has a plan for the conflicted Sara. Both central figures are forced by circumstances to reflect on their own positions and take action, dealing with systemic injustice and striving for freedom on their own terms, many times being forced to figure out who their true allies are, if any.

The leading performances are both excellent, with Williams and Oglesby both exuding strength, stage presence, and credible emotion as their characters endure a variety of challenging circumstances and relationships. The rest of the cast members each play two characters, and all are strong, with Celeste M. Cooper as Sandra’s academic colleague Jade and as the enslaved, conflicted Luanne a particular standout. There’s also excellent support from Evans as Abner and Sandra’s student Malik, and Greenwood as the entitled Missy Sue and Sandra’s student assistant Candice. The staging is dynamic and well-paced, with occasional moments of humor amid the increasingly intense drama.

The set design, by Nina Ball, is inventive and visually striking, with contrasting wood floors representing the divide between eras and locations most of the time, but also serving as an effective setting when the whole stage is required for some key moments in Sara’s story. There’s also effectively evocative lighting by Xavier Pierce, and excellent use of projections by Micah Stieglitz. Ricky German’s costumes are excellent, as well, suiting the characters well as being versatile to provide for quick changes for the performers who play different characters. There’s also compelling use of sound and music from composer/designer T. Carlos Roberts. All of these technical elements work well to represent the two eras and locations as well as providing a thematic connection between the stories.  

Confederates is a compelling, story that provokes much reflection and thought. There are many important issues portrayed here, in the person of two memorable, vividly portrayed characters and their situations. It’s a must-see show that can be a catalyst for important and challenging conversations. It’s a remarkable production from the Rep.

Tatiana Williams, Celeste M. Cooper
Photo by Liz Lauren
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting Confederates until March 5, 2023

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