Upon sitting down to an evening with Alice we, the reporters, are immediately offered refreshments and given a mini fashion show by the “Hostess of Washington” herself, played by veteran actress Joy Davidson. We are then ushered into an epic trip down memory lane with Alice triumphantly gushing details about many a public figure along the way.
Playwright Kitty Felde is insightful in many ways. The script is an exhibition of a real person who is complex and genuine. It took us chronologically through Alice’s many potent memories of her life in politics as opposed to merely jumping from thought to thought.
Felde’s vision is brought to life by Stevie Zimmerman who returns to Fringe as Alice’s skilled director. Often in a show consisting of a solo performer the pacing can be butchered by drawn out pauses, not so under Zimmerman’s watchful eye. She manages to create blocking, including some dancing and marching, that is successful in keeping the audience engaged. The final crucial element was the jovial voice of the ghost of President Theodore Roosevelt (Will Cooke.) “Father”serves as Alice’s conscience, occasionally reeling her in when her biting wit goes a little too far such as her famous witticism “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me.”
It is obvious almost immediately that the three most important things to Alice are her father, herself and delicious, brutal honesty. She regaled us with stories of the White House menagerie she shared with her brothers, the many pranks they played and the numerous hexes and spells she would place on various governmental figures who dared oppose her father’s politics. At times the anecdotes led into a heartfelt vulnerability on Alice’s part as she considered the election when she almost ran for Vice President, her rivalry with Eleanor Roosevelt and her pain when facing the reality of her husband’s infidelity. The production’s best moments occur whenever “Father” Roosevelt reminds Alice of her deceased daughter Paulina. Here, Davidson adeptly allows us a peak at the other side of Alice whose few regrets lie in the decisions she made in motherhood.
It was a goal of the creative team to do their best to make the material accessible to members of the younger generation. Davidson’s representation was more than enough for anyone to appreciate Alice’s straightforward character. However, the old fashioned humor may be too unfamiliar with members of Generation Y to secure any more than a light chuckle. There were also a few always small setbacks that occurred on opening night: the sound cues that go off just a few seconds too late, the lead performer dropping the occasional line or slurred speech out of nervousness are all small matters that any audience member is prepared to forgive when control of the production is quickly regained by the lead actress, as it was in Alice.
The Fringegoer with no familiarity of Alice Roosevelt Longworth will be entertained and at least will have a good time at this production. Those familiar with her history or that of the Roosevelt family will especially enjoy it. Not recommended for anyone younger than 15 years old.
Alice, an evening with Alice Roosevelt Longworth has 4 more performances at the Mountain – Mt Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave, Washington, DC.