“Shades of Gray” Outstanding Solo Performance
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Tom Dugan becomes the essence Robert E. Lee in his solo show, “Shades of Gray.” Dugan researched this historical figure for two years, wrote his show in one and a half years and has been touring for nine years. His inspiration was Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War. Dugan humanizes and breathes life into this prominent, historical figure. He shows us the husband, the father, and the general whose life is somewhat of a dichotomy. I was thoroughly engrossed and entertained. It was an amazing performance, and while it was a one man show, I felt the presence of the other characters through Dugan’s skillful portrayal. Dugan is on stage for ninety minutes in this fast moving show.
Lee was a man of contradictions and a man whose life was made of difficult choices. He was against slavery. He was pro Union. And, he was married to George Washington’s granddaughter. President Lincoln wanted Lee to be head of the United States Army, but Lee had to honor his soul which led him back to Virginia and to the cause of the South. He couldn’t invade the South. “It’s my country.” Dugan takes us on a journey that opens in Act 1 in April of 1865 in William Mc Lean’s home in Appomattox to discuss his terms of surrender with U. S. Grant. “Posterity has come to claim me.” “Posterity, you can’t have me.” His name would be in the book of patriots or traitors. His plea to us is, “You must understand me.” The story is dramatically told in flashbacks.
Mel Johnson Jr.s’ flawless direction moves this story along at a fast clip. Dugan talks with the other characters and makes the audience feel as if they were actually there. Lee was an intuitive and strong leader, who cared deeply about his men. He had two of his sons in battle with him. His humanity came through as Dugan read letters Lee wrote his wife and daughters. As he asks his wife to leave Arlington, he says, “They can take our possessions, but not our memories.”
While Lee was against slavery, he was for “gradual emancipation”. He had the foresight to realize there was no plan in place for the freeing of four million slaves. He was a man of insight and contradictions. He stabbed a young Mexican soldier only to hold the soldier’s hands as he lay dying.
The writing was exceptional and rich with images. Lee reminisces and gives us images of his home in Arlington with a large green lawn. His daughters and twenty-three white angels frolic and play at her fifth birthday. But the lawn has become Arlington cemetery. What a clash of images. In another scene rife with imagery, Lee bends down to pick up a baby sparrow as a bloody battle ensues. Brilliant writing.
Dugan is a 2011 L. A. Drama Critics Circle Award Winner and 2011 Ovation Award Nominee.
Richard Allan’s sound effects of war and loud ticking sounds to measure time add tension to the story and Kate Barrett’s lighting design with flashing strobe lights heighten the drama.
We discover the perils of war as we are taken back in time through flashbacks from 1861 to 1863. Act 2 takes us from the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 back to 1865 as Lee wonders if he will be hanged for being a traitor or pardoned. “History may say harsh things about me in black and white, but life is lived in shades of gray.” And, Dugan gives us all the shadings of gray in a beautiful chiaroscuro, rich with images.
“Shades of Gray” at Theatre 40 runs through August 20th, 21st, and 22nd. Check the website for more shows at www.theatre40.com Theatre 40 is located at 241 Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills on the Beverly High campus at the Reuben Cordova Theatre. For tickets and show times call 310-364-3606.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts September 20th For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org Call 310-285-6850 for a pin # to register on line. Registration to www.beverlyhills.org/BHRegOnline Click on “Activities” and put COURSE # 19245 in the SEARCH box. Or call to get a registration form faxed or emailed.
The class in for 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).