An Account at First Hand of the Battle…
nytheatre.com review by Matthew Trumbull
August 15, 2004
If there were a Longest Play Title prize awarded at the 2004 FringeNYC, George Rand would have a lock on it with his self-written one-man war yarn, An Account At First Hand of the Battle Lately Waged In and Around the Town of Gettysburg (PA.) As Related By Major General Isaac Ridgeway Trimble (Ret.), Army of Northern Virginia (C.S.A). Even the stage manager lost her way saying it aloud in the pre-show announcements. But 19th century titles didn’t mess around, and neither does Rand’s General Trimble, who we are meeting in the year 1866, three years after the Gettysburg battle began the nineteen-month death knell of the Confederacy.
Tough, leathery, and devilish, the 64-year-old general struts before us with a twinkle in his eye, giving not one hoot what we think of him, chastising us for even wanting to hear about Gettysburg and not Chancellorsville, which went better for Dixie. Rand is a masterful storyteller, switching characters in flashbacks to portray Robert E. Lee and various other commanders, Confederate and Union. He even gives us a 70-year-old farmer who fought the British with his musket in 1812, and comes to Gettysburg to kill Rebels with the same gun.
Rand and director Natasha Badillo have found clear distinctions in posture, accent, and demeanor to separate Trimble from others that Rand weaves into his one-man tapestry. Badillo has skillfully made full use of the stage, protecting Rand’s anecdotes from stagnancy by giving him an easel and paper to illustrate strategy, and leaning him occasionally against the heat pipe, as if it were an oak shading him from the Gettysburg sun.
Though Rand nimbly leapfrogs from character to character in certain stories, I found it difficult to keep track of who’s Dixie and who’s Union in anecdotes delivered by Trimble himself. Though the crusty general harrumphs at an 1866 audience, Rand might further tweak these stories for 21st century folk, who have been separated from the deeds of these men by almost 150 years. There is sadness in that, and Rand incorporates beautiful moments of vulnerability into our time with Trimble. He leaves us with a heartbreaking glimpse of an old man who is struggling with obscurity, restlessness, and regret as the lights fade on all that he had to say.