'Parade' at SU Drama: The struggle between justice and revenge

Review: A talented ensemble of collegiate performers and production workers makes 'Parade' into a haunting, emotional theater presentation.

Editor's Note: This review originally appeared at Green Room Reviews on October 12, 2014.

Syracuse University Department of Drama opened its season Friday, Oct. 11 with a heart-wrenching production of Parade.

Parade tells the harrowing true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man falsely accused of the murder of a young girl in 1913 Atlanta. Crime and injustice, however, represent only part of the story. Parade is also about the relationship between Frank and his wife, Lucille, whose love thrived in spite of adversity and insurmountable odds.

Parade, which has a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, tackles themes of racism, anti-Semitism and, perhaps most prominently, the resentment that still loomed between the North and the South in the post-Civil War era.

It’s a lot to take on, but the show’s young cast, under the direction of SU drama professor Marie Kemp, handled the complexity of the subject matter exceedingly well.

Ethan Saviet and Ana Marcu played Leo and Lucille Frank with an earnest vulnerability that gave the show a much-needed sense of hope.

Parade truly is an ensemble show, which made it a wonderful opportunity to showcase a variety of talent. Michael Roach as the sleazy reporter Britt Craig and Jerrod Everett as ex-con Jim Conley both gave show-stealing performances.

The show really shines in the larger group numbers, particularly during “Hammer of Justice” and “Where Will You Stand When The Flood Comes.”

The production does seem to stumble a bit on the overt Southern elements of the play. Every character in the show, with the stark exception of Leo, has a thick Georgia drawl, and the cast struggled with the dialect at times. The Confederate flag made many appearances throughout the play, almost to the point of overuse. And the character of Frankie Epps, a young friend of the murdered girl, is inexplicably barefoot for entire play, even in the courtroom scenes, a choice that seemed a little too reminiscent of Huck Finn for the somber tone of the show.

The show’s set, designed by SU student Alex Petersen, consisted mostly of projections on thin, tan panels, which gave the production a ghostly feel. Moments where images of the real Leo Frank and news clippings from the actual trial were projected around the actors were particularly haunting.

Despite some minor fumbles, this is ultimately a very good production of a difficult show. It’s a play that will make you think about the difference between justice and revenge and consider the lengths that both love and hate can drive people to.

Blog photo courtesy of Michael Davis.

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