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Theater Reviews

Jun 17, 2004 - Jeanmarie Simpson is Jeannette Rankin in Nevada Shakespeare's "A Single Woman"

By Jack Neal

Always an actor and sometimes a playwright, the indomitable Jeanmarie Simpson is both as she gives her impassioned all to bring to the stage the life and times of peace activist supreme Jeannette Rankin.

Simpson calls her play "A Single Woman" because Jeannette Rankin was a single woman who made such a difference in how the United States thought of itself. That America still doesn't think of itself as altruistically as Jeannette Rankin would have liked only means she'd still be fighting for a more thoughtful and more just USA.

The first woman ever elected to Congress, Rankin represented Montana starting in 1917. Congresswoman Rankin voted against going into the First World War, then voted against going into the Second World War. "There are better ways to solve conflict than by fighting," she constantly would say, and so does Jeanmarie Simpson in this provocative play. It's what the actor believes and what the congresswoman believed and that's why the actor and the congresswoman are such good fits.

As Rankin, Jeanmarie Simpson is entirely convincing. Playing off director Cameron Crane's role as Everyman, Simpson takes the life of Rankin and breathes freshness into Rankin's every belief and pronouncement and there are plenty of both in this gripping play.

Simpson and Crane are remarkable actors and both give "A Single Woman" an aura of devotion that makes their presentation crackle with excitement and truth. That "A Single Woman" also provokes as much as it excites is what the life of Jeannette Rankin was about. "Think," she would say, "and for God's sake vote." Think and for America's sake vote, is what "A Single Woman" is about. Being a thoughtful citizen is what patriotism and this play is about.

"A Single Woman" is a tour de force for two actors. Both Simpson and Crane are splendid. Simpson covers the 92 years of Rankin's detailed life without missing a nuance in the passion Rankin had for peace, justice and America. Crane is equally splendid in creating impressions of many historic figures from FDR to Jimmy Carter.

"A Single Woman" is a work in progress. But it's a work in progress anyone interested in a better America should experience. That it's also entertaining theater only makes it that much more compelling.

"A Single Woman" can be experienced in a variety of venues. For information about performance places, dates and times and other Nevada Shakespeare productions and events call 775-324-4198.


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