History we all know: 1620. Plymouth Plantation. The Mass. Bay Colony. Brave ancestors who came to these shores seeking religious freedom and refuge from English persecution.
Well, not exactly. William Gibson’s searing indictment of our earliest founding fathers, GOODLY CREATURES (presented by Hub Theatre at the First and Second Church stage through Oct.6th) sets the record straight: the “Divine Slaughter” of 700 Pequot men, women and children while they slept, ex-communication (and worse) of citizens who didn’t toe the Puritan party line, condemnation of women who “meddle in men’s business” and accusations of heresy, sedition and witchcraft.
The characters in GOODLY CREATURES are quite familiar to Mass. residents. State House statuary celebrates our first governor and the city of Winthrop bears his name. Although Anne Hutchinson, too, has a statue, her fate at the hands of Governor Winthrop was anything but “Christian” and no town is named for her.
Gibson slowly and deliberately sets up the colonial conflict in Act I. You’re so busy trying to tell all the ministers apart—(What’s that old saw about too many ministers spoiling the cloth?)—that you hardly have time to absorb all their semantic squabbles: “Good works…good words…a good spirit” all seem compatible to us but those Puritans were adept at splitting hairs. In fact, these protestant ministers, whose ancestors went to great lengths to separate from the Catholic Church, end up having the same objections about worshippers speaking directly to God without sanctioned intermediaries.
The good news is that Gibson has written a rousing Act II. When the dominoes start to fall, collapsing in Anne’s direction, the play catches fire. Now that you know who’s who, it’s riveting to watch the disaster unfold AND BECOME OUR SACRED HISTORY! While you are at the Church (founded by Winthrop et al), look for his statue outside. Inside you’ll find a display case with the church chronology and portraits of the very ministers in the play who are so threatened by Anne.
Director John Geoffrion has gathered an accomplished cast, headed by Nancy Finn as the headstrong Anne Hutchinson and Phil Thompson as her nemesis, Governor Winthrop. The charismatic Finn gives Anne warmth and humor as well as a touch of hubris to keep her from seeing what’s coming. Thompson, as well, makes us understand the conviction beneath Winthrop’s misguided actions, so that his character isn’t merely a villain (as opposed to the real Winthrop who plotted Massachusetts’ first mass murder: “A nation of 700 wiped out of history,” his character/narrator confesses in the play.)
Craig Houk as Anne’s husband provides a welcome playfulness to the somber proceedings, acknowledging that he “never wins in an argument” with his wife. Robert Orzalli and Floyd Richardson as Anne’s immutable foes add plenty of chills. Morgan Bernhard supplies the nobility as an evenhanded governor and Cristhian Mancinas Garcia, the excitement of a revolutionary firebrand. But it’s Jack Schultz as Anne’s mentor who gets to break our hearts (and hers) when he feels he can no longer support her case.
Hub Theatre is a bright, new company on the Boston scene. One of the things which make it unique is its pay-what-you-can tickets. Their productions are lively and spirited and definitely worth a visit. Do see GOODLY CREATURES for the history you never got in school!