A new play did a good job of finding connections between the sale of Manhattan island for a few guilders and the Wall Street financial meltdown more than four centuries later.
The featured play in Oklahoma City Theatre Company’s Native American New Play Festival, “Manahatta,” by Oklahoma native Mary Kathryn Nagle, was performed Thursday in the intimate basement CitySpace Theatre at Civic Center Music Hall.
Cast members filled multiple roles in the sometimes slow-moving but ultimately rewarding play, set not only in 1626, when the island was sold, but in 21st-century New York City and Oklahoma.
Rachel Morgan gave a low-key, quietly convincing performance as a Lenape Delaware Indian at the time of the sale, and as her modern descendant Jane Snake, who loves math and works at an investment bank.
In both parts, Morgan played the younger, more curious sister, who wants to trade beaver furs at the market with the Dutch and work on Wall Street — a bolder course than that of her older sibling, well-played by Maya Torralba.
Zack Morris was a wonderfully solid stick-in-the-mud as her father, in both time periods, passing on a wampum (seashell) necklace to Jane, as he urges her to stick with tribal tradition and resist change, like he does.
Matt Cross brought the right youthful intensity to Black Beaver, a young man who learns the language of the Dutch and naively sells them the island, thinking he is trading furs, only to become his tribe’s leader against them.
J.D. Bergner got across the sympathetic-unsympathetic qualities of his two parts, as a Wall Street boss who sees Jane’s potential, and an assistant to the Dutch “heavies,” pressured to enforce their cruel policies.
Kevin Logan conveyed the ruthlessness of the two main Dutch leaders, totally unable to understand the tribe’s belief that the island can’t belong to anyone, and the extreme emotions, during the financial panic, of Dick.
The production made good use of such simple yet evocative props as a floor painting of the Manhattan island coastline, and a golden tree, behind a curtain, which can also be seen as the wall, built by the Dutch, for protection.
Running a little too long and needing editing, but touching and intelligently directed by Paul Mitchell, “Manahatta” is an intriguing, moving work-in-progress, which shouldn’t be missed during its run.
— John Brandenburg, for The Oklahoman
•When: 8 p.m. Saturday, and Thursday through May 17, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
•Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
•Tickets: $20 for adults, $17 for students and senior citizens.
•Information: 297-2264 or www.okctc.org.