Hip Shot: Sesquicentennial—The Civil War Remembered

Caos on F

Remaining Performances:

Reflections of General Robert E. Lee
Sat. 7/20 at 12:45 p.m.
Wed. 7/24 at 8:15 p.m.

An Evening with General Ulysses S. Grant
Sun. 7/21 at 12:00 p.m.
Tues. 7/23 at 8:30 p.m.
Fri. 7/26 at 8:00 p.m.

They say: "Two living history plays."

Dan's Take: Joe Rosier's Reflections of General Robert E. Lee is not merely a Civil War period piece—it's a first-person look at the complexities of a man who found himself on the wrong side of history. Rosier focuses on a fairly linear story, rather than forming a thesis about his character, and through this approach he succeeds in passing on some interesting tidbits about Lee's life that will enthuse American history buffs. For example, Lee was religious and a devoted military man who received no demerits during his four years of study at West Point. Rosier's Lee also defends the Confederacy's view of the Civil War. If nothing else, Rosier's portrayal is dedicated and detailed, and his authoritative voice is aided by his use of historical documents, such as a letters written by Lee to his wife and President Franklin Pierce.

Rosier's show could've benefited from a bit more showing over telling, to balance out the persona he gives his subject. As Lee, talking at Washington College five years after the Confederacy's surrender, he makes a point to take dejected pauses between thoughts, sometimes shrugging or putting his hand over his face for a moment. Although he was granted parole, this Lee has a number of regrets from wartime, including losing his top general Stonewall Jackson, failing to make headway in Union territory, struggling to communicate with the Confederate press, and disappointing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On top of all that, Lee's initial allegiance to the Confederacy pitted him up against family members and friends with opposing views. These details are briefly touched on, but they are included to shape his story, not his character. Granted, this is a storytelling piece, and Lee had every right to be tired and jaded by that point in his life, but if Rosier spent more time fleshing out the tension and emotion within those anecdotes, his acting choices would have a greater impact.

It should be a given that history enthusiasts will most likely appreciate Reflections more than typical theatergoers. Nonetheless, it has educational value in exploring a pivotal period in American history from an alternative perspective. In addition to Lee, Rosier is spending half of these shows—collectively titled Sesquicentennial—A Civil War Remembered—portraying President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union forces and receives several mentions in Reflections. I can't say how well that performance holds up, but I'd imagine the two pieces together are analogous to a video game where you can play the adventure mode as the good guys or the bad guys, Civil War-style.

See it if: You're a fan of American history, or secretly wish the Confederates won.

Skip it if: You got enough American history lessons in high school and never want to hear about it again.