B Street Theatre’s new production, "The Conductor: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad," is a great experience.
The play, which is part of B Street Theatre’s Family Series, made its debut in time for Black History Month. It tells the story of Harriet Tubman as she helps a slave, Jeremiah, escape to freedom in 1850s America. Jerry Montoya authored this B Street Theatre original production.
"The Conductor" was written with children in mind, but that doesn’t mean it is dumbed down. Instead, it portrays the struggles of being a slave in a way that is easy to understand and accessible for young viewers but is harrowing and intense enough that the experience is not diminished.
This makes the play engaging for adults as well as children. That the production presents slave life in a family-friendly manner is perhaps its greatest strength, but "The Conductor" has many other qualities.
The actors portray their characters with conviction and emotion. The stage bursts with personality, allowing the audience to invest in the unfolding events. Skyler Cooper, who plays Harriet Tubman, deserves special mention for transforming a meek mother in one scene to a powerful and convincing leader in the next.
The play’s target on young viewers does have its faults, though. The plot is fairly simple and the supporting characters are never fully fleshed out. One character in particular has a quick change of heart that might not seem believable. But "The Conductor" is well told and well acted, and is great for the young audience.
Considering that the venue holds only about 150 people, the production values are quite good. The sets are well designed, if a bit sparse, consisting mostly of a few backdrops and a constructed porch. The sound effects are adequate, with ambient noise such as crowd chatter and hooting owls coming through the speakers when appropriate. The technical side of the play always compliments the solid acting, which is the anchor of the play.
"The Conductor: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad" is moving and powerful, and entertains both children and adults. It’s one you’ll remember long after you have left the theater.
"The Conductor," B Street Theatre, weekends through March 14, 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $22, available by calling 916-443-5300. B Street Theatre is at 2711 B St.