Group’s lat­est play at Wil­low Theatre tack­les eu­gen­ics

The Palm Beach Post - Neighborhood Post - Northern Palm Beach County - - Front Page - By Faran Fagen Spe­cial to The Palm Beach Post

Ter­ror. Dis­gust. Shame. Hope. A de­sire for us as a na­tion to do bet­ter.

Acc o rd i ng t o di re c t o r Brian Reeves, these are some of the emo­tions at the heart of The Play­group’s up­com­ing per­for­mance, “Bro­ken An­gels.”

“The au­di­ence will never forget this play’s demon­stra­tion of the power of cru­elty, nor the tri­umph of the spirit of an ex­traor­di­nar­ily or­di­nary young girl,” said Reeves, of Welling­ton.

This court­room drama, set in 1920s Vir­ginia, is an original play based on the true Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell.

Car­rie Buck is sent to the Lynch­burg Colony for the Fee­ble­minded, and is the first can­di­date in Vir­ginia’s new law to have the fee­ble­minded ster­il­ized. Sad­dled with a court-ap­pointed at­tor­ney, she faces a room full of hos­tile wit­nesses ea­ger to see this new law put into place.

“B ro ke n A n ge l s ” a n d its cast delve into the slip­pery slope of marginal­iz­ing and de­hu­man­iz­ing cer­tain groups of peo­ple.

“This play is about eu­gen­ics and it’s set in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia” said artis­tic direc­tor and Play­group founder Joyce Sweeney, of Co­ral Springs. “It’s a pow­er­ful piece any time it’s pro­duced, but we had no idea it would be so timely right now. Years ago, when we did it just as a read­ing, it got a stand­ing ova­tion. We can’t wait to do it now at the Wil­low Theatre.”

The Wil­low Theatre at Sugar Sands Park in Boca Ra­ton will host a to­tal of six per­for­mances of the PG-13 rated show on Nov. 3-5 and Nov. 10-12.

It will be the third sea­son at the Wil­low for The Play­group, which is com­mit­ted to show­cas­ing only the work of lo­cal artists, play­wrights, direc­tors and ac­tors.

Todd Caster, of West Palm Beach, is one of those lo­cal tal­ents, and the play­wright for “Bro­ken An­gels.”

“The play speaks very s t r o n g l y a b o u t h u ma n rights,” said Caster, who’s been with The Play­group since its in­cep­tion in 2010. “We see a woman hav­ing her right to pro­cre­ate sys­tem­at­i­cally taken away from her by the courts. It was a dark pe­riod in our na­tion’s past. We need to re­mem­ber not to re­peat it.”

Au t h o r A d a m C o h e n re­cently wrote a book about the Buck case — “Im­be­ciles” — that takes its name from the terms eu­geni­cists used to cat­e­go­rize the so-called “fee­ble­minded.”

Co­hen, for­mer mem­ber of The New York Times Edi­to­rial Board, told NPR “Fresh Air” pro­gram host Terry Gross that Buck v. Bell was con­sid­ered a vic tory for Amer­ica’s eu­gen­ics move­ment, an early 20th-cen­tury school of thought that ac­tively sought to “breed out” traits that were con­sid­ered un­de­sir­able.

“There were all kinds of cat­e­gories of peo­ple who were deemed to be un­fit (to proc reate),” C ohen told NPR. “The eu­geni­cists looked at evo­lu­tion and sur- vi­val of the fittest, as Dar­win was de­scrib­ing it, and they be­lieved ‘We can help na­ture along, if we just plan who re­pro­duces and who doesn’t re­pro­duce.’”

While do­ing re­search for this play, Caster said he felt sym­pa­thy for Car­rie Buck. The more facts he un­cov­ered, the an­grier he be­came as he learned how her plight un­folded. He hopes those sen­ti­ments trans­late to the au­di­ence.

“Each scene is a piece to a greater puz­zle,” said Caster, co-founder of The Palm Beach Play­Mak­ers in Del­ray Beach. “And, as each wit­ness is called to the stand, the stakes be­come greater. I’m hop­ing for each scene to be pow­er­ful. But, when Car­rie fi­nally takes the stand to de­fend her­self, it sums up the fu­til­ity of her case.”

The South Florida cast in­cludes Caster, Bruce Allen, Teresa Biber-LoMonte, Jill Brown, Brian Dever, Rachel Swanzy, Nick LoMonte, Tom Turner and Me­gan Zwaans.

In ad­di­tion to three pro­duc­tions per year, The Play­group also holds monthly work­shops, at the Glades Road Branch Li­brar y in Boca Ra­ton, where play­wrights can de­velop their projects and net­work with lo­cal ac­tors and direc­tors.

As for Reeves, he be­lieves that “Bro­ken An­gels” is a “com­pelling demon­stra­tion that evil peo­ple, in­deed an en­tire evil sys­tem, can be cruel to those who are dif­fer­ent.”

He pre­dicts that the audie n c e wi l l b e awe d a n d shaken by what they see and learn.

“Car­rie is weaker than the sys­tem that op­poses her, and it even­tu­ally crushes her,” Reeves said. “Ul­ti­mately, though, like a flower grow­ing through a rock, we see her tri­umph.”

CONTRIBUTED PHO­TOS

Play­group mem­bers Todd Caster (from left), Rachel Swanzy, Brian Dever and Nick LoMonte re­hearse for “Bro­ken An­gels,” a pro­duc­tion com­ing to the Wil­low Theatre at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Ra­ton in early Novem­ber. “The play speaks very strongly about hu­man rights,” said play­wright Caster.

Jill Brown (left), Teresa Biber-LoMonte and Tom Turner par­tic­i­pate in a read­ing dur­ing the first re­hearsal of “Bro­ken An­gels.” Their Play­group team only pro­duces original plays by lo­cal play­wrights.

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