Fringe Review: Ses-qui-cen-ten-ni-al – The Civil War Remembered
You don’t have to be a Civil War enthusiast to appreciate this historically influenced monologue by Storyteller “Country Joe” Rosier. That’s because from the moment Rosier’s character, which that night happened to be General Robert E. Lee (he also plays General Ulysses S. Grant in other Fringe performance dates), slowly strolls into the chapel at Washington College, the audience embarks on a nearly hourlong journey of descriptive war stories along with a few personal anecdotes.
While the staged props and Lee’s costuming appears suitable for the 1870 time period – top hat, three-piece black suit, silver beard – his oration, aimed for an audience of recent college graduates in Lexington, Va., and particularly his dialect throughout the show, isn’t altogether consistent or convincing. What is supposed to be a Virginia accent sounds more the likes of a Boston-Charleston hybrid. In other ways, some of his war references make it seem as though the war’s been over for decades, when it had only been five years.
One thing’s for sure: There’s no lack of detail in Rosier’s storytelling – from memories of his early life, to marrying his wife Mary Anna Custis, to leading troops in the Civil War, to becoming president of Washington College, and everything in between. Although dry at some points, he pulled together a bit more dramatic force by shouting military orders during one particular battlefield re-enactment.
A softer light in the room might have created a more intimate scene, and the series of historical letters – to his wife, from Grant, etc. – read by Rosier throughout the show merely added to the faintly disjointed flow of his speech.
Rosier’s Ulysses S. Grant act, which surrounds the 40th reunion of the U.S. Military Academy’s class of 1843, sounds a bit more lighthearted than what General Lee offers.
Nevertheless, the college setting of this show is fitting, as it feels more like sitting in a lecture hall than in a theater. An experience where, with all the important dates and historical names, you feel like you should be taking notes. No worries, though, there’s no exam at the end of the show.
Storyteller “Country Joe” Rosier (Lake Mary, FL)
Rating: FF (family friendly)
Run time: 55 minutes
Genre: Drama, Living History, Solo Show
Tuesday, May 21 – 9 p.m.
Thursday, May 23 – 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, May 25 – noon