Magazine article Newsweek

Stonewall Jackson's House

Magazine article Newsweek

Stonewall Jackson's House

Article excerpt

IF YOU GET TO SEE JONATHAN reynolds's Stonewall Jackson's House, hang on to your shibboleths, those precious beliefs that we think are unshakable truths. Reynolds is the best shibboleth shaker to hop onto a stage in a long time. The stage is at New York's American Place Theatre, which for some shocked playgoers has become an Unamerican Place. I mean, a play in which a young Southern black woman begs a Midwestern white couple to take her home as a slave?

That's just one shot in the funniest and most outrageous play of the season, a withering fusillade of satire aimed at our comfortably congealed political orthodoxies. The young woman, LaWanda (Lisa Louise Langford), is a tour guide showing two white couples through the restored house in which Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson lived in Lexington, Va. LaWanda, dressed in period costume, recites her historical tidbits ("Here the ferocious general canned 99 heads of cabbage one afternoon") but her stream-of-consciousness asides reveal her true feelings ("What am I doing in this house? Put a handkerchief on my head and call me Aunt Jemima!"). After several surreal switcheroos, the play morphs to a New York theater company (same cast) whose staff has just seen the very play we've been watching. Like the well-marinated liberals they are, they're shocked by its blatant Political Incorrectness. A scathingly funny donnybrook erupts between the theater types and Joe Rock, the playwright (R. E. Rodgers), lacerating the sanctimony and hypocrisy of the P. …

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