Edges of Time by Jacqueline E. Lawton, directed by Jules Odenhaul–James, reveals the power of news media and the importance of amplifying Black voices in America. Artfully crafted, it is a look at the relationship of the Alabama bombings, the personal dynamics of Black families, the relationship between opportunity and prejudice, and the Renaissance of culture as seen through the eyes of Marvel Cooke.
Cooke, who was the first Black woman writer to have her own byline in a major US newspaper, was an unknown trailblazer, who did not think of herself as a changemaker. But through the framework of her own story, she became just that. Cooke understood that Black lives lacked description as the nameless and faceless and that this lack of reporting dehumanized this community and resulted in prejudice.
Lawton explores the contrast of McCarthyism with the internal truths and convictions of Black communities and those who were deemed radicals in the 1950s. Strong visuals and design elements artfully and quietly exemplify these patterns of contrasting ideologies, many of which are still alive and well today.
Although her performance may have lacked some of the dynamism that might have been expected from a historic figure of this stature, Williams’ performance is more nuanced, controlled, and understated. Perhaps that is an actor’s choice, or that of the director’s, to express Cooke’s truth in an objective, journalistic way.
The PlayMakers’ premiere of Edges of Time not only serves as a hopeful glimpse of what sitting in a theater used to feel like, the set, the costumes, and the aesthetics but also reminds us how necessary theater is to a community. It moves us from the narrow spaces of quarantine closer to that sacred place wherein creative energy is nurtured and new work is birthed.
Edges of Time is available to stream through April 4th. For more information visit https://playmakersrep.org/.