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‘The Cave’ brings a wide array of relevant issues into light of present day


Cassie 02STheatre Conspiracy’s production of The Cave opened on March 24 in the Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts. It stars Florida SouthWestern State College sophomore Marie Baptiste as Cassie, The Bible’s Jordan Wilson as a wounded Confederate soldier by the name of Brandon and Michael J. Pineda as a Union deserter named Timothy.

Cassie is a runaway slave bound for Boston, where she hopes to live as a free and cultured woman even though she’s never gone to school and can barely read. She has taken refuge in a cave, where she The Cave 01Srecounts the abuses and humiliation she suffered at the hands of the plantation owner from whom she’s escaped. In a particularly moving soliloquy, she relives the day Massa Charles raped her in pantry as his wife reclined upstairs with a migraine and vows that no one will ever put a slave baby inside her again.

Soon after, a bandaged and blind rebel soldier stumbles into Cassie’s subterranean refuge. Having heard Cassie practicing the cultured diction of Southern gentry, he The Cave 04Sassumes she is a lady of refinement and means. Fearful and flattered, Cassie indulges this fantasy and soon learns that he has made his way into her cave in the hope of ending his misery by falling into a bottomless pit. Brandon has not just lost his sight. He has lost all hope and faith in both man and God by dint of the carnage he’s witnessed and wrought on the battlefield over the past year and a half – which he graphically describes as a messy sea of meat and gravy, meat and gravy, meat and gravy.

As Brandon and Cassie discuss slavery, the South, Brandon 04Ssuicide, and the dichotomy between hope and despair, the cave attracts yet another refugee in the form of a Union soldier from Boston. Somehow, Cassie makes Timothy her confederate, entreating him not to reveal to Brandon the fact that she is black and not white. Timothy’s reaction and response to his own harrowing experiences in battle are uncannily similar to Brandon’s, and as it turns out, neither the Yankee nor the rebel is fighting to end or preserve slavery. The son of a wealthy Quaker merchant, Timothy has been lured by the romanticism of conquest and his pretty blue uniform, while Brandon doesn’t really know what he’s fighting for The Cave 09Saside from some ill-defined sense that it’s what he’s expected to do as a loyal Southerner.

Ranging from race and the interplay between body image and self-esteem to patriotism, nationalism and the loss of faith in the aftermath of war or natural disasters, The Cave is a theme-centric psychodrama that explores a wide array of topics that are still relevant today. But by setting his timeline during the Civil War and ensconcing his characters in a dank, dark subterranean environ, playwright Jeff Lindsay gives the audience the space to reconsider these issues in the light of present day.

The Cave Act Two 01SBut there’s more to “The Cave” than a mere explication of disjunctive and interrelated themes. At its heart, “The Cave” is an exploration of the disparity between the real world outside and the subjective reality we create for ourselves. In her mind, Cassie associates Boston with freedom, dignity and respect, but discovers that Timothy is no different than The Cave Act Two 04SMassa Charles. Brandon is so enamored of the idea of winning the heart of a Southern Belle that he is blind to the fact that Cassie is actually a penniless runaway slave. Timothy thought war would be a romantic adventure, but discovers it is no more than young men on both sides dying for a cause over which they have no control and little understanding. Seen from this vantage, The Cave might best be viewed as a clarion call for greater personal and cultural clarity in a world dominated by fake news, bot tsunamis and alternative facts.

The Cave Act Two 07SAll three actors do a commendable job in portraying difficult, multi-teared characters who are deeply confused about who they are, what they want, and why they want it. Newcomer Marie Baptiste does a remarkable job of carrying the show during its initial scene. Not only is this her first lead, she has only been acting for a little more than a year. Michael Pineda is exceptional as the fast-talking, Harvard-educated, amoral viper Timothy, which is a real departure from the musicals The Cave Act Two 09S(Rocky Horror Picture Show and Something’s Afoot) and Walt Disney World engagement he’s appeared in prior to The Cave. Jordan Wilson is a stand-out as the suddenly blind good old boy from the South who is forced to look inside at his beliefs and values for the very first time in his life. And as he always does, Producing Artistic Director Bill Taylor has outdone himself both in terms of casting, direction and set.

This is one you will be talking about long after the final bows and pondering for days to come.

The Cave Act Two 24SMarch 24, 2017.



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