By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The staging of Booth, the world premiere drama by Dallas actor-writer-director Steven Walters at his Second Thought Theatre, is small. Just 60 seats in Bryant Hall. The main acting space is about 12-feet-by-12 of wooden planks. But the scope of this historical tragedy is huge, covering events leading up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the frantic search afterward for his killer, actor John Wilkes Booth (played by Montgomery Sutton, who looks remarkably like him).
Walters has directed his own script (Erik Archilla shares story-writing credit), which puts him too close to the words to see what needs cutting. It's a strong piece, written with elegant language and details gleaned from careful research. But it does tend to work itself into a lather. Then it rinses and repeats.
Booth, as Walters writes him and Sutton portrays him, is one mixed-up, angry Southern dude. He hates Lincoln like Glenn Beck hates Obama. When a senator's daughter (Mikaela Krantz) breaks up with Booth, hinting that she's about to marry Abe's son Robert Lincoln, it sends the actor into a deranged frenzy.
Stan Denman, sporting a Civil War-era beard, does some epic-sized acting as the man leading the law-flouting investigation, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. R Bruce Elliott plays both Senator Hale and President Andrew Johnson. Other actors also play dual roles, but sometimes it's not clear when they're making the switch.
There's good stuff here, but when Drew Wall's character says, "I'm confused!" in the second act, you might be, too.