Roslyn Alexander Gives Us A Captivating and Moving EMMA GOLDMAN
BY RICA ESTRADA:
It was a story of empowerment, of love, of passion.
Here was a woman who simply could not be tamed. At a time when a woman couldn’t speak up, Emma Goldman spoke in front of thousands. At a time when a woman’s place was believed to be in the kitchen, Emma was either travelling the world or was detained in jail. She was a rebel in every sense of the way, fighting not just for her independence but for the freedom of laborers. Her ideals were as interesting as her choice of men. Emma lived her life the way she wanted to and did not apologize for it. It was such an honor to watch her story unfold.
No one was more capable (and successful) in bringing Emma’s intensity to life than Roslyn Alexander. She owned the stage and the character. Her performance was both captivating and moving. It’s one thing to form a connection with your audience, but to keep them connected all throughout the play by your lonesome? – that takes genuine talent. Alexander captured the essence of Emma Goldman in every stage of her life; her youthful exuberance upon coming to America, her deep love for Alexander Berkman, her feistiness as an anarchist leader, and the inner conflict she struggled with as she chooses between fighting for her cause and the joys of her personal life. Alexander displayed a wide range of emotions, each one just as moving as the other. But if I were to choose my favorite, it would be the end scene. Alexander read a question, “if you have a choice, would you do everything the same way?” Then she sat, stared into space, and (in a fading voice) said “Of course. Of Course.” You could feel the uncertainty, the weariness, and the battle within Emma Goldman. Yes, she may be a seasoned actress but Alexander still has a certain rawness about her performance, a quality perfect for someone as “unpolished” as Emma. And the fact that Alexander wrote the whole play was simply amazing.
Aside from the wonderful portrayal of Roslyn Alexander, another thing I liked about the play was the monologue. With a subdued set-up and a solo character, the play relied heavily on the power of words. And the words were indeed powerful. The lines were just as spirited and witty as Emma herself. Those words painted a vibrant picture of Emma Goldman – assertive, gritty, and with a no-holds barred nature. I could imagine Emma saying the words she said with much bravado and confidence. As an effective orator, she always had a way with words after all. (Wasn’t that why she was always accused of inciting to riot and rebellion?)
The play was insightful and inspiring. Emma’s life encourages us to live our passions with conviction and without regret. Before this play, I never knew of Emma Goldman but I walked out of the theater as an avid fan. I’m sure you would too. T
ShPIeL’s The Passions of Emma Goldman, plays at the The Skokie Theatre, 7924 N. Lincoln Ave. in Skokie, playing June 4 – June 22. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $28 and may be purchased at skokietheatre.com, or the box office,
847.677.7761. For more information visit shpieltheatre.com. For calendar information visit theatreinchicago.com