The play is titled “A Revolutionary Mind,” and the reason to see it is the powerful performance of Nevada County actress Marion Jeffery as Susan, a crusading college student out to change the world. She debates the issues of the day with her favorite professor in a number of scenes, talking about how he “needs to get used to a new breed of women, women united against sexual manipulation, against the culture of female house slaves,” and more.
Susan is true believer. But she falls in love with another student from the opposite end of the political spectrum – a Republican, who supported Richard Nixon for president in 1960, rather than John F. Kennedy. She advises the young man – who she clearly likes – that she is a “left-leaning Democrat who strongly believes in the power of the people to protest.”
They get married anyway, despite their political differences, and the marriage lasts – proof, perhaps, that opposites attract. As a newlywed, Susan’s life starts to change, and actress Marion Jeffery makes a believable pivot between Susan, the fire-breathing radical, and the older Susan, now a young wife and mom. Jeffery nails the complications as Susan struggles to balance her drive for social change with family life.
The play takes on a darker tone as the story shifts into the ‘70s, and Susan becomes fascinated with Raymundo Gleyzer, a leftist documentary filmmaker from Argentina, who exposes the military dictatorship that brutally beats student protesters. In many scenes during this play, Susan imagines herself in dialog with the filmmaker, as he describes how the Argentine military bans labor unions, closes the college campuses, and cracks down on opponents through death squads that “disappear” people that the generals perceive as dangerous. Eventually Gleyzer himself is kidnapped and tortured.
Susan is torn. Challenging a military junta is risky, and she wonders about the wisdom of carrying protest to the point that the protester is killed. Susan raised her kids to stand up to authoritarian rulers, but wonders if she’s done the right thing. Actress Jeffery channels Susan’s firmly-held convictions, as well as the pain she feels from the parental choices she’s made. This contrast makes “A Revolutionary Mind” a very convincing profile of an activist, trying to stay true to her beliefs during changing times.
The California Stage production of “A Revolutionary Mind” continues through July 17 at the R25 Arts Complex at the corner of R and 25th in Sacramento – the show takes a holiday break over Independence Day weekend.