College of Charleston alumna Saluda Camp returns to her alma mater and the stage of Theatre 220 for "Mrs. John Marsh: The World Knew Her As Margaret Mitchell." The piece is a one-woman show chronicling the life of Mitchell, author of the seminal novel "Gone With the Wind."
Everyone knows the novel. It's one of the bestselling works of fiction in history, and the film (adjusted for inflation) is still the highest grossing movie of all time. If you love the book or film but don't know much about the woman who gave birth to Scarlett and Rhett, this show might be right up your alley.
Camp originally played this role at the historic Player's Club theatre, founded by Edwin Booth. It's one of three plays by playwright Melita Easters, all of which deal with Southern female literary giants (the other two being about Eugenia Price and Harper Lee). The play was first produced in Atlanta 21 years ago, and the timing for this run could not be more perfect with this year marking the 75th anniversary of the landmark film.
The research has definitely been done, on both the part of the playwright and the actress. The play, which unfolds as a series of monologues, follows her life from college through the publishing of the book, the premiere of the movie, and to just before her death in 1949. These are intercut by archival photos of the actual Mitchell, showing her throughout her life. Camp embodies her subject admirably. Mitchell's southern drawl is pleasant coming out of Camp's mouth, and the actress is filled with the fire and life of her subject.
A few glitches upset the proceedings. Many of the photos shown during the interludes featured captions which were blocked from house left by a very prominent table. A few of the captions flew by too quickly to be read. And Camp relays most of the information provided in the captions to us during her monologues, which at times feel more like lectures than natural speech. The framing of the monologues was also confusing for the first half of the show, as some are played to invisible "others" onstage as well as being delivered directly to the audience. A single decision on this front would have sufficed.
The title isn't the only mouthful, either. The show is a 100-minute extended monologue, and there were occasional slips in the delivery from Camp. Opening night jitters may have accounted for the bumps and stumbles.
If you're looking for a history lesson about Margaret Mitchell (there were quite a few fans in the house, obviously), then you can do worse than have Saluda Camp and Melita Easters deliver it to you.
Michael Smallwood is an actor in Charleston.