Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 30, 2008

"Eleanor: Her Secret Journey"

Berkshire Theatre, Stockbridge>
through November 9
By K. J. Rogowski

Berkshire Theatre Festival's production of "Eleanor: Her Secret Journey" is a one woman show of power, passion and change, that documents her reflections on the early years with yet to be president, Franklin. Equally important is a look at her personal observations on both world and intimate personal events that were to shape her future from 1945 on.

Elizabeth Norment's skill as an actor captures the panorama of that world stage as she plays Eleanor, Franklin, and a cast of others notables, as they discuss, debate and sort out the morals, mania and politics of world powers and family domination. Here, she faces the challenges of dealing with an unfaithful husband, a manipulative mother-in-law, the senseless inhumanity of man at war, and the strange, seductive power that each possesses. Through her journey, Eleanor strips away the grandeur and the public face of war, and those who manipulate that machine, and shows, instead, the back story, the human frailty that actually drives world events. She humanizes the inhumane, and reduces it to its most basic components. She reveals the personal quirks and idiosyncrasies of the great and near great, and casts a light on the personal toll of being a public figure, that the public sometimes thinks it owns.

Norment does all this with humor, passion and vulnerability, that make the view into the lives of these very public figures a true journey of little-known human struggles. Stephen Temperley's direction keeps the action smooth, uncomplicated, and focused on the message, as does the simple, yet elegant, set design. The use of lighting shifts and occasional sound effects to set the tone and to punctuate the changing emotions of Eleanor's pilgrimage are also nicely played. For an evening of drama, humor and humanity, Eleanor's journey is well worth the trip.