that community. Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Sovereignty, running atthe Marin Theatre Company through Oct. 20, attempts to do both in about twohours.
Sarah Ridge Polson (Elizabeth Frances) returns to theCherokee Nation in Oklahoma seeking a position with Attorney General John Ross(John Waid) with the hope of enforcing the Violence Against Women Act on triballands and perhaps getting the opportunity to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s1978 Oliphant decision. That decision declared that Native American TribalCourts had no criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans.
Things are complicated by family history. Sarah’s ancestorswere part of the Cherokee nation who agreed to the Treaty of New Echota whichceded all Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi to the United States andled to the Trail of Tears. Ross’sancestors considered those that supported the treaty traitors and put many ofthem to death.
So begins the back and forth between the two centuries thattells the story of the Cherokee nation, the abuse they suffered (and continueto suffer) at the hands of the United States government, the two families, andhow the decisions of the past continue to haunt the present.
Playwright Nagle is also an attorney which would explain thevery legal approach she took to her script. In her zeal to enter all thefacts of her case, she enters all the facts of her case through reems ofexpository dialogue in which her characters come off more as court clerksciting cases than co-workers and family members engaged in conversation.
It’s not the fault of director Jasson Minadakis’s talentedcast (the majority of whom are Native American) that the dialogue they’re givento deliver often seems straight out of a History Channel reenactment or thatone character leaps from charming goofball to vicious thug in a seeming-millisecond.
I left the opening night performance thinking that ratherthan cram two centuries worth of history into a single play, audiences might bebetter served with a series of plays (à laAugust Wilson) that tone down the legal-ese and up the humanity quotient. uerecsa Huer
There’s a lot of good work on stage and the informationimparted by Sovereignty is important (and sadly little-known), buttheatre needs to be more than just a staged legal brief.
‘Sovereignty’runs Tuesday through Sunday through October 20 at Marin Theatre Company in MillValley. Tuesday through Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm; there are Saturdayand Sunday matinees at 2pm.
For moreinformation, go to marintheatre.org.