Though not perfect, Not One More Foot of Land! accomplishes its mission: making you feel the pain, fear and doubt that the Cherokees felt after the Trail of Tears.
The play, which is showing at the in the NoHo Arts District through April 1, concerns the life of Major Ridge, the Cherokee Indian leader primarily known for signing the Treaty of New Echota (1835) which led to the Trail of Tears. Before this period, Ridge was, however, one of the most prominent leaders of the Cherokee nation.
Constantly battling in-fighting or wars and skirmishes with the white man, the Cherokee, in the end, had to ask themselves what they were willing to do to avoid destruction.
Their fight for survival, then, is courageous and nearly-miraculous.
Playwright Art Shulman’s writing is dramatically and historically accurate, though sometimes suffers from a lack of depth and resonance. This, however, is one of the best, if not the best, play he has ever written. Shulman’s attention to detail and relationships weaves the fabric of this breakthrough.
Kristina Lloyd’s direction is passionate and realistic. The massacre, dance and mating rituals and scenes are heart-stopping and seamless. She truly understands the spirit of the Cherokee and their ancestors, and the play reflects it. The Trail of Tears is a highlight.
The only flaws lie mainly in the first act where characters are at times talking at each other and not to each other. Also, there were too many addresses to the audience, by Ridge especially, which would have worked better shared with another character.
Lloyd, however, deserves much credit for successfully tackling a project of this specialty and scope, especially given a short rehearsal period.
Her familiarity with Shulman, with whom she has worked many times before, shows up here in the energy of the action on stage and closeness of the relationships.
Donell Morgan (Sehoya) is sensitive and compassionate, but needs to speak louder.
Erika Stone (Iroquois) is moving and delicate and deserves more attention as an actress whether in material dealing with Native Americans or not.
Randy Vasquez (John Ridge) is convincing, confident and a real find.
But the glue that holds this play together is the genuine and sincere performance of Joseph RunningFox, who gives the show authenticity, honesty and humor in his portrayal of Major Ridge.
RunningFox, who has appeared on NBC and TNT among other film and TV appearances, has a stage presence that belies his size. He means every word he says.
It is up to each audience member to decide whether they agree with Ridge’s choices in leading the Cherokee nation.
Special mention goes out to David Coretti (fight choreographer) and Walter Gray IV, who plays three unique and distinct characters after but eight days of rehearsal.
Aiding the production is the set design by Lloyd and Chris Winfield, the sound design by Steve Shaw, the lighting design by Nicholas Leland and props by Magaly Madrid.
All in all, Not One More Foot! of Land entertains and informs.
Yet, on this patch of Cherokee land, one also feels for and suffers with a group of people who, basically, had their fate and future determined by everyone but themselves.
Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
General Admission: $22; Seniors: $17; Students with ID: $10
Tickets/Reservations: (818) 782-4254