From the Mississippi Delta is an autobiographical play by Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland. As stated in the program notes, “it is a story of one woman’s triumphant journey…a gripping tale depicting the resilience of the human spirit.”
It recounts her life growing up in the south. Her stories are filled with poverty, racial injustice, and horrors. “Cat,” as she was known, lived a life that was spiraling nowhere until the civil rights movement came to her town. The demonstrations, rallies and her devotion to the cause changed her destiny. She eventually moved to Minnesota and, after successfully passing her high school equivalency exam, went on to the University there to earn a B.A., M.A, and finally her doctorate.
Three actresses play multiple roles of the people in this remarkable woman’s life, most notably her mother, known as Aint Baby. a guiding force in the young girl’s upbringing. They effectively bring out the angst, hardship, but also humor, in the production. The most compelling of the trio is Erin Margaret Pettigrew (Woman 3). Her portrayal, primarily of Aint Baby, is moving and inspirational. Claudia Logan’s (Woman 1) main focus is on the high-spirited, always inquisitive Cat. The actress gives a lively performance that can be raucously funny as well as heartfelt. Tameishia Peterson (Woman 2) is more the swing of the three actresses, tackling a variety of roles that could have used more distinction in their portrayals.
Dr. Holland’s play is structured as short vignettes in a non-linear format, which can sometimes be hard to follow. The depictions, however, are enhanced with passionate spirituals, which bring strength to the characters and the action on stage.
Jason Ardizzone-West’s Scenic Design, with its multi-level, slatted wood set aptly portrays the dilapidated shotgun house the woman grew up in as well as the seedy town environs. The problem for the show is the sheer size of the set. It mostly overwhelms the actresses and intimate stories they are enacting. This puts Director Goldie E. Patrick in a difficult position of balancing the relationships and characters within the play and the dominant set design.
From the Mississippi Delta, playing at Westport Country Playhouse through October 30. Click here for ticket information.