The world premiere of Her Story Theater producing artistic director Mary Bonnett’s drama, directed by Cecilie Keenan, explores the little-known role of women in stoking the Ku Klux Klan’s xenophobia and nativism in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating topic worthy of deep exploration given its germination on the heels of women’s suffrage and all-too-real ties to current events. But the production lacks the focus and critical eye necessary to understand how “everyday” people can coalesce around such dangerous movements.
Set in Mississippi in 1925, the story follows three members of the WKKK: Lucinda (Barbara Roeder Harris), a stern, high-ranking officer; Doris (Megan Kaminsky), her impressionable daughter-in-law; and Mabel (Morgan Laurel Cohen), a mother in mourning who’s been pulled along for the ride. The primary target of WKKK ire, an albino child called Ghost Girl (Maddy Flemming), brings an otherworldly, sometimes distracting, element to the story that serves as a vehicle for other characters to access their emotions by conversing with departed relatives.
Mabel’s inner torment over the WKKK’s treatment of minorities is the central tension of the story, played with grace and anguish by Cohen, but the creation of Lucinda and Doris’s belief systems could use more exploration. In one moment, Doris complains about the harsh judgment of women in a pie baking contest, saying “we are more than our pies and our crusts.” In the next, she’s excitedly sharing eugenics ideologies like forced sterilization of people that don’t look like her. That disconnect is the most chilling part of the story. v