HATRED AND AGGRESSION IS NOT JUST A MALE THING
When you think of aggressive behavior that could start wars, destroy property and end lives, don’t you always picture men at the core of it? When you see pictures of hooded figures dressed in white sheets, riding horses and burning crosses, it’s always men right? Well guess what, the Ku Klux Klan has a women’s auxiliary. Feminist, youth advocate and prolific playwright Mary Bonnett spent a good deal of time dredging up their ghoulish history and from what she has gathered she has woven an unbelievable yet deeply humane and entertaining story of the role these women had in forming the white supremist hate spewing organization we think of with exorbitant contempt, directed by Cecile Keenan.
Bonnett created the fictional town of Mounds, Mississippi circa 1927, based upon a once real town that was destroyed in a flood in 1927. On the surface, Mounds seems like a beautiful place. The people work hard to create a beautiful picture of life in the Deep South. They are the white people who run things and uphold what they believe is a good Christian society. The rest of the townsfolk are unnecessary - a few black people and even a few strays, like “Ghost Girl” (Maddy Fleming), an 11-year-old Albino girl who was abandoned by her birth family and raised by Jubilation (Lisa McConnell), a black woman who sees “bodies dropped all over the place.” She preaches vehemently, but the ladies in the town try to laugh her out of the way.
Barbara Roeder Harris is frightening as Lucinda, the powerful grand matriarch who picks and chooses like-minded people to enforce the message going throughout the town. She has the devotion of brainwashed Doris (Megan Kaminsky) and is recruiting Mabel Carson (Morgan Laurel Cohen), who doesn’t seem to be fully onboard. When Ghost Girl comes around, she talks to her like anyone else in town. When the other townswomen see this, they make sure Mabel knows she is not on the list of appropriate or worthwhile people to talk to. So Mabel cannot fully trust them either. They place a strict embargo on foreigners, Jews, Blacks, any outsiders. Anyone who is not white and elitist is not welcome and could be either run out of town or even worse. To heat things up a little more, Mabel’s husband, Tom (Brad Harbaugh) is a devoted Klansman and will not tolerate her talking with Ghost Girl or any other misfit that threatens their way of life. Klan comes before everything, even his wife. Mabel will have to decide soon or be subject to a test of faith by the hostile women who will not let her rest until they have her full esteem.
Chicago Tribune reporter David Stein (Richard Cotovsky), a Jewish man finds out how unwelcoming the town is when he stops in on the way to interview a senator in a nearby town. He’s beaten up and like Ghost Girl, recovered by Jubilation who has a lot to talk to him about. After receiving her kindness and hospitality, her ranting doesn’t sound so crazy. He is ready to leave, but his journalist instincts get the better of him and he stays around to get the bigger story.
Mary Bonnett has animated all the research and material available on the once powerful but not obsolete Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), the ladies of the “Invisible Empire” who had a very distinct role in the proliferation of the Klan. Women were tasked with instilling ethical, moral and education with emphasis on race, class, ethnicity, gender and religion. They helped keep the momentum going by enlisting white, native born Protestant women 16 or older with the strongest involvement in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Arkansas. The WKKK invented the “Poison Squads” who spread lies and destroyed reputations. In other words, there is no room for naysayers in a Klan run town. Anyone opposed is presumably opposing God and country.
Invisible is a beautifully crafted moment in U.S. history that is as hard-hitting and revealing as her previous works that include the Sex Trafficking Cycle: Shadow Town, The Johns, Money Make’M smile and the Monger directed by Artistic Home’s John Mossman. Her work is considered life-changing and has been seen by audiences across the country. Invisible is worthy of a PBS production and unfolds like a suspenseful drama in southern fiction narrative. Mary Bonnett has rewritten a moment history and replaced it with story of a peaceful life threatened by bigotry and hatred.
Invisible runs through November 3 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. To purchase tickets and learn more about this exciting show phone 773-327-5252 or visit stage773.com/show/invisible. Tickets are $15 for students and $35 for adults.