In The Jacksonian, Beth Henley returns to the Southern Gothic storytelling that made her reputation with both critics and audiences. Set in a seedy motel in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1964, the play centers around Rosy, a troubled teenager, and Bill, her dentist father who has been living at the motel for several months as his wife, Susan, considers the disgrace of divorce. Fred, the motel bartender, and Eva, a waitress, are locked in a gruesome pact: he’ll marry her if she agrees to help him evade punishment for a hideous crime. But Bill, turning to nitrous oxide to ease the pain of his life collapsing around him, is a convenient target for Eva’s desperate desire for companionship. At the height of the violence associated with the civil rights movement, these characters gradually reveal the shameful secrets and psychological turmoil just beneath the surface of their insistent Southern gentility.
“You see, Ms. Henley isn’t flirting with the clichés of Southern Gothic and pulp fiction. She’s embracing them with such ardor that she squeezes new life out of them. The result is her most entertaining work since she won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Crimes of the Heart three decades ago.”
— Ben Brantley, New York Times
“This 90-minute, part David Lynch, part Flannery O’Connor slice of Southern Gothic is a reminder of the simultaneously dark and often hilarious mix of confusion, rage, and just plain eccentricity that marked Henley in her Pulitizer Prize–winning Crimes of the Heart.”
—Christian Science Monitor