At one point in Ars Nova’s Underground Railroad Game, brought to Ann Arbor by University Musical Society for six performances, two characters wonder if – as middle school teachers overseeing a Civil War role-playing game for fifth graders while also diving into an interracial love affair – they’re reveling in the past or learning from it.
An apt question for our “Make America Great Again” era, no?
For Stuart (Scott R. Sheppard), who’s white, speaks of “moving history forward” and “making progress” as if these ideas are interchangeable, while Caroline (Jennifer Kidwell), who’s black, replies, “Those words don’t mean the same thing to me that they do to you.”
But all this probably makes Underground sound like a gravely serious, straightforward play, when nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, this avant-garde theatrical cherry bomb (running time, 75 minutes) is a daring study in dark comedy, in which the laughs – and there are many – are often accompanied by a wince.
Which I guess should be expected when we’re fumbling our way through a (seemingly impossible) conversation about American history and race, and how we still experience that ugly past in our contemporary bodies and minds. READ THE REST HERE