We are sure of two things after seeing Mrs. John Marsh: The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell. If Margaret Mitchell is half as interesting as the play made her seem, she's a cool cat with pluck galore. Secondly, Saluda Camp is adorable.
The one-woman play follows the life of the Gone With the Wind author during the years prior to publishing her novel and the years following. The story unfolds with Camp speaking directly to the audience through the voice of Mitchell, taken from letters, biographies, and interviews. The audience learns about her time at Smith College, the death of her mother, and the life-altering effect Gone With the Wind had on her. She was quite the flirt and progressive for the time — some might even say flapper-esque. She had what she called gumption.
The play bills itself as showcasing Mitchell's life post-publication and her turn toward becoming a recluse. That's something that we didn't get. Sure, the author didn't love the fame that came with her success, but we never got the sense that she became a complete recluse. Would a recluse go to a movie premiere? Or raise money for war efforts? She may not have gone out into public for her daily errands, bu we didn't get the sense that she was a Miss Havisham or even a Harper Lee. She just tried to avoid places where she may be bombarded by fans — like the ones who accosted her in a dressing room and with one saying, "I don't think she wrote it, she's far too little." No one would have liked that.
That being said, Camp's portrayal was endearing. One-person plays are a beast, with the whole play relying on one single performance. And Camp's wasn't without mistakes. She stumbled over a few lines, having to pause to collect her thoughts or restate the line with the correct wording. But it was her energy that kept the play alive. She interacted with the audience with incredible eye contact and cute little smiles and winks. The audience ate it up and gave her a standing ovation to show their gratitude.
The set was simple — a desk sat on stage in front of a large screen that was used to display pictures and Powerpoint slides of Mitchell. The slides, while informative, gave off a slightly amateur feel to the production. A chair would sometimes be brought in for Camp to sit while she addressed the audience. But Camp's performance more than made up for the Powerpoint and occasional slip-up.
Piccolo Spoleto. Mrs. John Marsh: The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell. May 25, June 1, 2, 6, 7 at 3 p.m. May 26 at 7:30 p.m. May 29, June 5 at 8:30 p.m. May 30 at 9 p.m. May 31 at 5:30 p.m. June 1, 2, 6, 7 at 3 p.m. June 4 at 6 p.m. June 7 at 8 p.m. $20, $17/students, seniors. Theatre 220, 54 St. Philip St. (866) 811-4111. piccolospoleto.com