UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME (Jennifer Kidwell & Scott Sheppard / Lightning Rod Special): 2015 Fringe review 21

Photo by Tamara Rodriguez Reichberg
Photo by Tamara Rodriguez Reichberg

Hanover, Pa. 1996. seriously. A school learning exercise, the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME, turned the audience into a class whose job was to help free or capture plastic doll slaves on their way to Canada during the Civil War. Starting there, Jennifer Kidwell and Scott’s Sheppard’s skillfully devised work slowly bends and breaks the separation between historical Americana and contemporary experience.

While performing historical skits to explain the Underground Railroad, two teachers Caroline (Jennifer Kidwell) and Stuart (Scott Sheppard) find themselves in the midst of a budding romance. Quickly paced, the work presents the audience with constant tangents along contemporary and historical racism and misogyny. The dialogue in this work, particularly in a scene where Stuart and Caroline walk home from a movie, was honest and well thought out. Switching between gym auditorium pep rally style and the intimate dynamics of a relationship, the audience was at times in fits of laughter or prayer-like silence. This work actively questioned progress, using physicality and staging to present oppression as ever present, shifting, and complex. The deftness of this work in its ability to use humor and emotion honestly produced a complex performance from two gifted co-creators. [Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 North American Street] September 2-12, 2015; fringearts.com/underground-railroad-game.

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