MILLER, MISSISSIPPI – Theater Review By Gadi Elkon

Spanning back to the 1960s, Miller, Mississippi tells the story of one family that falls apart as the country attempts to come together. In the classic Southern Gothic tradition, the world premiere of this tragic new play will stun minds and break hearts, as the personal and political combine to bring about the Miller family’s undoing.  Dallas Theater Center – Miller, Mississippi.

Here is Gadi Elkon's full review of this powerful production.

As the first member of the audience reaction video says, "The issues that are raised are still very current, every single one of them."

I couldn't agree more with her spot on assessement of this play.  The racial divide and the misogynistic nature of our nation are as strong and powerful as they were in the Civil Rights era of the 60s.  The terms, voices and images may slightly differ but in the end the same divide of "tradition" and reality is gaping as it was decades ago.  Writer Boo Killebrew's play dives into one particular family and it's destructive demise because of this struggle with race and sexuality.  Her voice is one of anger and yet streams so true and honest.  She opens the play with the simple elements of fear told in a ghost story but the fear element remains for each and every character.  Whether it's the mother who is left to raise her three growing children or the children struggling to find indentity in the changing world both sides of this family are tackled.  Also connected to the family is the maid, cook, babysitter, and guardian Doris.  Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company Member Liz Mikel plays Doris with a wonderful snarky demeanor that makes her enjoyable but also impactful when emotions of the world become to massive for the characters.  Fellow resident members Alex Organ plays eldest son Thomas and Sally Nystuen Vahle is the family's mother Mildred.  Leah Karpel as Becky and Dylan Godwin as John round out the powerful cast.  Liz' strong voice and familiarity with the Dallas audience allows for her to dominate the first half of the production.  Her telling of the ghost story in the beginning sets the mood so perfectly.  Her ability to be witty and wise have always shown through and even more so in this character of Doris.  The subtle nature of the children's battling words set by Killebrew's script and Director Lee Sunday Evans blocking of the actors reverbrates the chracters growth throughout the production.  Thomas as the eldest is the most fearful and thus his holding onto the comfort of tradition molds his character.  Alex plays Thomas with both a strong purpose and aura of importance that makes his full arc seem so true to reality.  Alex's battes with Dylan are particularly abrasive and well done.  But it's his shocking work with Leah Karpel that hits hardest in the production.  Leah and Dylan have characters that are so vibrant and alive as children that their slow demise is heartwrenching.  Both actors immerse themselves in this with the physical transformation as much as the strong words from Killebrew.  Sally Vahle though has the incredible ability to shut down the world with her amazing powerful moments.  From her introduction to her slow demise into insanity we see a character that is fully impacted by the world around her.  Each actor truly gets a full arc to break through and thus makes this production so captivating.  You can latch on to any specific character and be amazed by the transformation.  But it's the unique use of a small black and white television that gives us the "world", it's own transformative beast-of-a-character.  The TV becomes the ultimate extension from a simple story of a family's demise to being a microcosm of our nation as a whole.  

The playwright Boo Killebrew is asking for our opinion in this world premiere unveiling of her production.  "DTC is the ideal creative safe-haven where this daring new play can come to life and (hopefully!) catalyze vitalizing discourse among audiences," said Killerbrew to DTC.  After the production, I watched on Thursday evening, the playwright and Director Evans were there for the stay late which was an experience I was amazed at as we gained such enlightenment. The discussion that happened was heated and filled with questions that spoke so honest to the emotions Boo wanted to touch.  For a production to invoke such emotional reactions is all the evidence you should need to make this a must see.  Don't just go see this play though, freaking grab your parents and friends and drag their asses to see Miller, Mississippi.  As a city that saw itself forever changed because of a visit from JFK during the heart of the Civil Rights' movement (maybe the catalyst to the movement itself) this world premiere here in our city is IMPORTANT.  Dallas I implore you to showcase yourself.  Because this little author Boo Killebrew doesn't hold back a damn thing and gives us something impactful and insightful in Miller, Mississippi at DTC's Wyly Theater through October 1st.


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