I walked into “Speak Truth to Power” early. The cast was warming up with an interpretive dance to Britney Spears’ “3.” The mood that was set was so happy and upbeat and the cast was so friendly … then the show started. It was like being slapped in the face with the cancellation of “30 Rock.” I’m not prone to crying, but my dry eyes were close to tears. The monologues were haunting; if inciting guilt in the politically apathetic was the goal of the show, they did a spectacular job.
Attempting a show like this is very difficult. There are 90 minutes of emotionally poignant testimonials, with no plot or climax written into the script. To pull this show off effectively, there needs to be a compelling ebb and flow and production that dovetails the narrative structure. This rendition, directed by Kate Moore Heaney ’14, was almost there. There was a great deal of dynamic movement to stave the dramatic monotony. Their use of projections, pictures and lighting also kept the very formulaic structure of the play interesting, but since there was no break in the drama for 90 whole minutes, it was very hard to stay connected to the message. The show could also done with some more sound design. Sound could have helped make the show seem a bit more upbeat in places to balance out the more dramatic moments and make them hit home. And in the small space of Jonathan Edwards Theater, it was easy to hear the noises of the pipes and toilets flushing during the more quiet and intense moments.
But in terms of talent, every actor commanded the stage during each and every monologue. There may have been a few moments of overacting, but considering that many of the cast members were first time performers, they did an admirable job of relating to daunting material. There was only one truly questionable directorial decision. Alex Caron ’13 was placed in the audience to serve as a peanut gallery, constantly reminding the activists that nobody cared about what they were doing. He moved seats often. It was very distracting and added a layer of strange and unintentional humor. It was clear that he was meant to represent the way the world at large ignores the important work these people are doing, but the way it was done was a bit tired.
Perhaps the strongest feature of the play was the way in which the voices being heard were divorced from race or gender. The cast members played activists whose genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations were not their own, eliminating the need for pigeonholing them into discrete ethnic or gendered boxes. The particular problems presented in “Speak Truth to Power” become ones for all people through the monologues — they are not happenings that can be avoided by “turning on the television.”
“Speak Truth to Power” is definitely educational. It is a well-chosen venue to spread the word about the wonderful things people are doing around the world to help alleviate poverty and suffering. These people deserve to have their stories told. The cast and crew of “Speak Truth to Power” succeeded in telling those stories and, despite the show’s imperfections, it exemplifies how important it is to care about hardships and heroes thousands of miles away.