From his award-winning 'history drawn from the letters of an antebellum Georgia plantation family, Robert Manson Myers as fashioned a second "epistolary drama" that works remarkably well within the confines of four-character staging and the small Trapier Theater at the Washington Cathedral.
"The Voices of Pride" are the voices of the Charles Colcock Jones family in the darkening days on the eve of the Civil War.
Last year Trapier staged "The Courtship of Mary Jones," a two-character romance based on the courtship correspondence between the young Charles Colcock Jones, a Princeton Theological Seminary student, and Mary, his first cousin, back home on the family's plantation in Georgia.
It was a charming romantic divertissement. "Voices of Pride," the sequel with the young lovers now the parents of adult children, has more dramatic sinew. It is against the background of the raid at Harpers Ferry, abolitionist agitation, Lincoln's election, and secession that the family writes about roasted red potatoes, Savannah society, and selling a slave family.
Kate Reid and Jack Somner, the guest equity actors appearing with Trapler's Shakespeare & Co. players, give beautifully modulated performances as the mother and father. These are decent people, deeply saddened by the death of an old slave an losing money to sell a slave family together. Yet they will fight as Southerners for the principle of property.
Ted Walch, Trapier's director, brings the letter colloquy to the stage with dramatic impact. It is not just a reading of the letters in sequence. The four characters react with expression and movement. Playwright Myers, whose book. "The Children of Pride" was drawn from the voluminous correspondence of the Jones family, has taken his lines entirely from the letters. And what letters the Joneses wrote to each other in an era when letter-writing was a civilized art.
Rounding out the Jones family as the son and daughter and Jone Gilliss and Caroline Cromelin, who portrayed the parents as the young lovers of "The Courtship of Mary Jones" last summer.
Gilliss, whose talent matures with "The Courtship of Mary Jones" last Gilliss, whose talent matures with each performance, is splendid as the young lawyer-son setting up practice in Savannah. He is the fiery Southern patriot who thinks the slave samily should be kept together for "even" Negroes have natural affection.
The show will run through June 25, playing nightly at 8 p.m. except on Monday and at 3 p.m. on Sundays.