Debuting on the first annual Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival, “One Drop” is a play that could have been a novella, as it describes the life of one person from birth to marriage. It is amazing how the playwright, Andrea Fulton, managed to keep it short, sweet, colorful and positive, considering the hardship main characters go through.
If this is not attractive enough, its unusual and not overly sugary, happy ending, embodying the hymn of jubilation and justice will do the trick.
Directed by Allen Harris, “One Drop” tells the story of a mulatto man raised in Louisiana. The audience learn about love between his parents that is prohibited and does them nothing good except for a baby son, who is anyway taken away from them heartlessly. From few hints from the beginning, we also find out how unfairly the boy, Charlie (Jared Reinmuth), was treated down South because he had “one drop of Negro blood” in him. The audience derives these facts from spot-on conversations between the characters, and every conversation could have been made into a separate chapter.
The big part of the play is a love story between Angelese (Xandra Stegmaier) and Waldemar Cade (Zeshan Bhatti). There are scenes that explain how their affair started and developed, and how it was abruptly ended. The viewers commiserate with the characters, as they feel that it is unjust to prohibit people from love because their skin color and place in the social ladder.
One of the strongest points of the play is its musical accompaniment. The musicians start playing even before the audience members proceed to their seats, and the music lets the viewers know that the action will take place in the late 19th century South. The music never interrupts the dialogues, but intensifies the feelings when necessary.
For instance, “It’s Only His Color” seems to reproach the Southern society for treating Charlie as an outcast for being a mulatto. This song is heart-piercing and pleads for justice, while “Love Lasts a Mighty Long Time” sounds as a happy final chord proclaiming the victory of love. Musical accompaniment and the plot of the play come together like crackers and cheese completing and emphasizing each others flavor.
In terms of the plot, with the modern tendency to base everything on a true story, from a book to a TV program, the audience should surely appreciate the fact that “One Drop” goes along with this fashion. It doesn’t make it any more touching, though, as the realistic situation that comes alive on the stage speaks for itself loudly enough.
. Energetic and talented, the actors and actresses playing the characters of “One Drop” were magnificent and spoke with so much heart. At times, it felt as though they were telling the story of their family. The most heartbreaking scene was that between Angelese and her father, Charles Oliver Stewart (Ken Bolander), when he is drunk and angry with her, and he informs her that she will never see her baby or she will never see him. The daughter gives out a short piercing cry and falls down on her knees in front of her dad, knowing that there is no way she can go against his will.
Another remarkable scene is women’s chit-chat. While doing their household chores, four African American women talk about men, life, cooking etc. Their conversation doesn’t seem to have any meaning, but it says a lot about those people and their life in Louisiana.
It also speaks to all women no matter where they live, as every woman has her own secrets and fears. Is it true that the way to a man’s heart lies through his stomach? What should a man do for his woman and in reverse? This scene seems to be a colorful background for the play, while also uniting the women of the world together, as everywhere life is life, and women are women.
A tiny weakness of the play is that at times music sounds louder than the voice of the person singing. Perhaps, this is due to the absence of the microphone, and it could be easily fixed. This doesn’t spoil the audience’s impression of the play; however, it’s a pity when the beautiful and sophisticated lyrics get lost amongst loud chords.
All in all, with sparks of humor here and there, the play leaves the viewers with an easy feeling that even though, life is not a bed of roses, everything is possible. It also makes us think that people should be judged by their heart, not their appearances or “one drop” of blood, which is now widely accepted, but unfortunately, still makes people mistake content for form. Therefore, even though the play is set in history, it speaks to our contemporaries as well, which makes “One Drop” even more touching and relevant.