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THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre/Shaw Festival
By
Jul 5, 2024, 19:27
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Shaw Festival
Through October 12
THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre/Shaw Festival

There are two great constants in American history, our “original sin” of slavery, either before or after the Civil War, and sex, which manages to be on every love or hate list.
For playwright Marcus Gardley, both come together in mid-summer 1813 in New Orleans as control shifts from France to the U.S., after the Louisiana Purchase.
Gardley blended tales of New Orleans’ free women of color leasing themselves to rich White men, the plaçage system, with Federico Garcia Lorca’s “The House of Bernarda Alba.”
The result is “The House That Will Not Stand.”
While the term originates in the Bible of a house whose foundations are sand, it was also key to Abraham Lincoln’s view of slave America in the pre-Civil War days, as the war loomed.
Beartrice Albans (Monica Parks) has long been in one of those special marriages, to the point they have three daughters and it’s time for them to go on the auction block, hoping to participate in the system.
There is a complication, semi-husband Lazar is dead and on display in the living room of the cottage in Faubourg Tremé.
His White wife doesn’t like the situation or his will and can make life difficult.
It’s also a sign of the bizarre nature of slavery that the house maid, Makeda (Sophia Walker), is also worried about what happens, with the master dead and the Yankees arriving, she wants Beartrice to sign the papers freeing Makeda from slavery.
The maid is the only legal slave in the house.
Even with the question of the future for Mom, the three daughters are obsessed with the upcoming ball at which young women of color can be leased, for their future.
The legally-binding contract sets the payment to the mother of the young woman who is being leased, the terms of what life the woman will have and what provision there will be for children of the relationship and their home.
It’s not clear if the new American administration will allow plaçage to continue and it’s not clear how slavery will be run under the new government.
There are a lot of slaves and New Orleans was one of the great entrepots for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an end of the Middle Passage.
The daughters go to the ball, what were once called “Quadroon Balls,” over their mother’s objections because she was opposed to the system.
What happens isn’t the way the plot was trending.
It’s a fascinating story since I doubt many in the audience had ever heard of this facet of the sexual history of the Crescent City.
Director Philip Akin has strong material to work with as well as a strong cast, led by Parks and Walker.
Sean Mulcahy contributed the colorful costumes for the all-female cast and a set making maximum use of the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre’s unusual stage.
It’s always interesting when the theater delivers a view of the human condition we don’t know about and it’s great when it’s a fine production.
“The House That will not Stand” is that.

A.W.

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