Women of Magdalene is a gripping drama about the power that men once had over women. TheÂ story-set in an asylum in the Post-War South-is eerie and tense and brimming with tensions sexual and otherwise.
But what’s most important here is the voice: the restrained, old-fashioned voice of an antique sadness with just a touch of modern sensitivity and sensuality. This voice could tell you anything. It could be a softer William Percy or a less-precious Edgar Lee Masters. If it weren’t fiction, you’d be thinking about Anne Frank. It’s stingy and generous, giving and withholding. It makes you visualize and then denies you the whole picture. It’s beautiful and spare and ten sometimes careless and accessible. It’s like something you’d hear from a stage in a darkened room.
Yup. I guess that’s it. This is a play, a little set-piece that begs to be read in parts.
oh? the story? well, there’s a disillusioned young surgeon discharged from the Confederate Army after the War of the Great Treason. Like a Walker Percy hero, he has just enough energy to confront his daily challenges. He’s gradually overwhelmed by the enormity of an evil he slowly encounters in an asylum for madwomen. His bare ability to cope is gradually buttressed by Effie Rampling-one of the most sparely drawn and remarkable characters I’ve encountered in a long time.
The final scene is one that will have you at the edge of your seat right up until the curtain falls. When they start casting the play, I want to audition for the part of Dr. Kingston.