On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln is attending a performance of the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre, starring the great Laura Keene. In the middle of the show, John Wilkes Booth sneaks into the presidential box, kills Lincoln with a single shot, leaps onto the stage and flees.
"Sockdology," a dark comedy by Jeffrey Hatcher, asks what happened next. The play was selected as a finalist for the American Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New Play of 1999.
Booth was a noted actor from a famous acting family. Are the actors in the play co-conspirators in the crime? Compounding the mystery, most of the actors have secrets they want to hide from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who questions them. "Sockdology" is as much about life in the theater as it is about a moment in American history.
The word "sockdology" relates to 19th century boxing slang for a powerful punch, a final blow. In delivering his own punches, Hatcher uses a variety of theatrical techniques: farce, melodrama, dark comedy, court-room drama and tragedy. Hatcher moves artfully back and forth between historical accuracy and theatrical fantasy to tell his story. By the end of the play, no one is left untouched.
The prolific Hatcher is also the author of "The Turn of the Screw," "Three Viewings" and "Scotland Road." He coauthored the musical "Everything's Ducky" and wrote the screenplay for "Casanova." Hatcher wrote the play "Compleat Female Stage Beauty" and later adapted his script for the film "Stage Beauty," based on the life of actor Ned Kynaston, a star of the London stage circa 1660.
The production is directed by Camelot's producing director, Doug Warner. Tempo/Revels Editor Richard Moeschl is the assistant director and dramaturg.
Formerly the producing director at Mendocino Theatre Company in California, Warner has extensive acting, directing and designing credits. Since he joined Camelot's staff about two years ago he has appeared in "The Beard of Avon," "The 1940's Radio Hour" and "An American Daughter" and directed "The Miracle Worker" and last season's musical "The Spitfire Grill."
Moeschl is Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Mail Tribune and the Ashland Daily Tidings. His play "Arthur's Dreams" won the 2006 Oregon Book Award for Drama.
Camelot's production of "Sockdology" features Camelot Artistic Director Livia Genise as Laura Keene, Don Matthews as Secretary of War Stanton, Priscilla Quinby as Mrs. Helen Muzzy, Paul Jones as T. C. Gourley, Jessica Price as Jeannie Gourley and Michael Meyer as Mr. John Mathews.
Genise is Camelot's artistic director. Quinby starred as Ouiser in "Steel Magnolias" and Madge in "The Dresser" in 2007. Matthews starred at Camelot in 2007 as Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha." Jones recently directed "Grapes of Wrath" and "The Dresser" and appeared as the Governor in "Man of La Mancha." Meyer is artistic director of Ashland Community Theatre and recently starred in its production of "Taking Sides."
The production team for "Sockdology" includes costumer Emily Ehrlich Inget; set designer, master carpenter Don Zastoupil; lighting designer Bart Grady; and sound designer Brian O'Connor.
"Sockdology" runs through March 2. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. A pay-what-you-can performance is planned for 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb.13.
Reservations are recommended. Tickets are available by phone or at the Camelot box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and one hour before performances.