Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Thomas and Sally is not presented as a love story, but as a historical reality set in a time when women married at 15 years of age and slave masters would have sex with their female slaves. Jefferson knew he could never marry his slave, but he did have feelings for her (and six children with her) and treated her with respect.
The opening scene shows two college roommates in the present day, Simone (e Ella Dershowitz) and Karen (Rose Hallett). Simone claims to be a direct descendent of Hemings and rushes to tell the story to her captivated roommate. Thomas Jefferson (Mark Anderson Phillips) is overhead, standing perfectly still. The stage is cleared and we get the history of Thomas Jefferson in the years after the Declaration of Independence of 1776, when he was Minister to Louis XVI in Paris. It stops short of his term as third president of the United States.
Thomas and Sally is three hours long with two intermissions. It could be trimmed down to two and half hours or so, particularly some of the opening scene of the two girls in the bedroom.
This production has a brilliant cast. Mark Anderson Phillips gives a superb performance with his intense voice as Thomas Jefferson. Tara Pacheco from New York is outstanding as Sally Hemings. She plays the role as a childlike young woman. The two have intense chemistry together.
Cameron Matthews gives a compelling know-how performance as Robert Hemings, and William Hodgson is convincing as James Hemings. L. Peter Callender gives a fine performance, gently gracious as Jupiter Evans and in the second act as a French tailor. Robert Sicular plays numerous parts including John Wayles, Ben Franklin, and a French cook. He rocks in these roles. Scott Coopwood also plays various roles, as John Adams, Lafayette, and Jefferson's overseer. He is excellent in all of these roles. Ellen Dershowitz and Rose Hallett are a delight playing the modern college mates Simone and Karen. Dershowitz further performs as Martha Washington and Polly Jefferson exceedingly well. Hallett performs as Abigail Adams and Patsy Jefferson admirably. Charlette Speigner plays Betty Hemings and Renee vividly.
Direction by Jasson Minadakis is sharp and he gets the best out of the actors' performances. Set and projections by Sean Fanning are first-rate. Costumes by Ashley Holvick are authentic for the time period.
Thomas and Sally runs through October 22, 2017, at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley CA. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit marintheatre.org. Their next production is Shakespeare in Love which runs November 24 through December 17.