- OTHER MEDIA
- Jesus does moonwalk the Mississippi on Taylor Street in San Francisco
- San Francisco Examiner March 22, 2010 (Leslie Katz)
- Cutting Ball has mounted a deeply moving, challenging poetic drama
punctuated by a spiritually uplifting church service. In his play
Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, Oakland playwright Marcus Gardley uses
the Mississippi River (an actual character named "Miss Sippi"
(Nicole C. Julien as an ebullient narrator) to tell a peripatetic Civil-War-era
story about a runaway slave searching for his lost daughter Poem.
- Naturally, the slave Damascus is trapped and hanged, but a dreadlocked
Jesus (a gleeful David Westley Skillman) descends to the hanging tree and
gives Damascus a new life as a woman. As the search progresses through
River towns and decaying plantations, an uplifting Chorus of three (Rebecca
Frank, Halili Knox and Erica Richardson) in a Mo-town lineup with matching
light blue gowns (highly descriptive costumes throughout by designer Callie
Floor) support Ms. Sippi's renditions of gospel music standards.
- Director Amy Mueller adheres to the texture of Gardley's play, staging
the story as a religious ceremony involving history, folklore, myth, and
musings on race. The dozen cast members draw in the audience to the bare
stage, whether they are enacting a ceremony with singing or depicting the
estate of the white Verse family. The choreography on this specially-built
plank deck gives the players a clear sense of place and thrusts them right
into the audience.
- The entire cast works congenially together as an ensemble. Some standout
performers are David Sinaiko as Jean Verse, a slightly venal Union sympathizer;
Martin F. Grizzell, Jr. as Brer Bit in a green top hat doing his slap-dancing
routine on special leather patches ingeniously sewn to his costume; and
Aldo Billingslea (Actors Equity Association) as an impassioned Damascus/Demeter,
especially when he's in his mammy drag.