“In the Blood” opened Feb. 15 with a modern take on “The Scarlet Letter” and a glimpse into the life of a homeless family in the inner city. It had its flaws but was ultimately a notable performance.
The show opens on a bleak stage filled with graffiti. Most fades into the background, but one word is bright and ugly: slut. Hester (Kasey Freeman) looks at the word and wonders what it means. Soon it becomes clear that although she’s a grown woman she’s illiterate. She only knows the letter A.
Hester lives with her five children of five different fathers — Jabber (Brett Green), Bully (Rachael Simpson),Trouble (Shanon Weaver), Beauty (Atalanta Siegel) and Baby (Justin Hall) — under a bridge in the inner city. There, she struggles with the difficult choices and hardships they must endure as victims of poverty. There are times where she must choose between feeding her children or feeding herself. At other points, she resorts to providing sexual favors to community members in hopes of making money to survive.
Each of the five children are recast as an adult in Hester’s life. Each represents a different pillar of society: there is a preacher, a doctor, a social worker, a friend and a lover. At various points in the production, they express their desire to help Hester. But despite these claims, they take advantage of Hester sexually in ways that are often humiliating and degrading and always for their own self-gain. And yet, they treat Hester with disgust and seem revolted to touch her. The social worker carefully places a handkerchief on Hester’s stool before sitting on it.
Although the script provided a voice for the marginalized American homeless population, it had its flaws. There were scenes that didn’t flow from the moment as well as they could have. Hester’s oldest son, Jabber, was written a bit too young to be a convincing 13 year old. Blocking was also an issue — early in the performance, there is slapstick that is obviously staged and unconvincing.
Despite previously mentioned script flaws, Freeman was able to shine through. Her struggle as a single, homeless, black mother was sobering. Her final soliloquy was simultaneously heartbreaking and phenomenal.
The costumes displayed the limitations of access to adequate clothing a family of their economic status would have. However, each of their individual personalities still bleeds through in their sartorial choices. Even in times of hardship, Beauty still wears a makeshift tutu out of plastic bags. Hester still keeps a pair of shoes she deems nice and too good for wearing.
Maddie Walsh , a sophomore theater major from Savannah, designed a phenomenal set despite the limitations of the intimate Cellar Theatre stage. The set carefully conveys urban desolation reminiscent of the rougher parts of any inner city in America. Graffiti, an old mattress and the absence of color all accentuate the bleakness of the cast’s circumstance.
Despite some flaws, “In the Blood” is still worth seeing and provides interesting social commentary on how the homeless are viewed and treated.