Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is full of rip-roarin' dancin', good direction, good singing, nice costumes, fine choreography.
The lead who plays Milly (Rachel Gavaletz) is a beautiful young woman with a vibrant voice, full command of her range, and a regal bearing that seems at least a decade beyond her years. Her male counterpart (Jude Bishop) is a handsome, dark-haired fella who sings and swaggers with vigor. The orchestra was swinging, and the set design by Nancy Hankin was fabulous.
Based on Plutarch's Rape of the Sabines (the mythical way in which Rome was populated), Seven Brides tells the tale of seven pioneering brothers in the Oregon territory who are in desperate need of wives for the standard reasons of lust and getting the laundry done. The oldest brother marries a woman in town, neglecting to tell her that in addition to caring for him she will be required to care for his six brothers as well.
The brothers then try to charm six more townswomen into marrying them, and, when that doesn't work, kidnap them and lead them up into the hills where they can't be rescued until springtime. After several months up in the hills, the women fall in love with their captors and when their kin come to rescue them, they resist and instead choose to marry the pioneers.
So why did I hate this good-natured production? Because it was a gussied up, prettified, hootin' and hollerin' glorification of Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome, in case you don't remember, gets its name from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm where the robbers took several hostages who, after several days of captivity, began to identify with their captors and ultimately refused to testify against them. Patty Hearst also apparently suffered from this identity crisis after the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped her in 1974, becoming an accomplice of the group in several subsequent bank robberies.
It is assumed that people suffering from Stockholm syndrome identify with their captors as a defense mechanism, since their kidnappers hold the power of life and death over them, and any small acts of kindness become magnified, holding out hope for survival. Those who would rescue the victims are then seen as a greater threat than the captors, and the captives resist rescue.
Despite Director Mark Hennessey's notes that this is just "simple, innocent fun," I am astounded that in this day and age -- and in a county suffering from twice the national average of sexual assault and with 22 domestic violence-related murders this year -- that this kind of "fun" is so thoroughly enjoyed by one and all. Especially by high-school students.
Sheesh. What kind of morality are we teaching these kids?
I'm all for revivals, and I love a good dose of musical testosterone (in case you doubt it, see my review of last season's Damn Yankees online at www.csindy.com), but some material should simply be retired. Watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers felt equivalent to watching a very well-produced minstrel show in blackface: great production values wasted on a story that should never be told. Sorry, folks, this isn't lighthearted entertainment -- it is horribly dated, and in this part of the world, just irresponsible.
-- Andrea Lucard
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Fine Arts Center Theater, 30 W. Dale St.
Fri. and Sat., Oct. 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.
$23 for nonmembers; $21 for members; $25 at the door