A Review of “HICK: A Love Story”

January 14, 2015 in inQueery

Hick2The Berkeley City Club has a small, intimate theater perfect for watching the one-woman show, “HICK: A Love Story,” presented by The Crackpot Crones and Lilith Theater. The one woman is Terry Baum and her show is an historically accurate rendition of the romance between the journalist, Lorena Hickok, and the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Baum gives her audience ample background information as her character, Hick, describes facts about her and Eleanor Roosevelt’s affair and about the political atmosphere of the United States during their thirty-year-long relationship.

Baum researched her characters heavily by studying letters that Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to each other and by interviewing people who knew Hickok personally. In the second scene we learn that Hickok was the first woman to have a byline on the front page of the New York Times. She also convinced her boss at the Associated Press that a journalist should cover FDR’s wife. Hick and Eleanor Roosevelt meet when Hick is assigned the job of reporting on the first lady candidate in 1932.

Eleanor Roosevelt is played by a voiceover of Paula Barish. All of Barish’s lines are direct quotes from letters that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Hickok. Barish’s voice is elegant and the letters are flowery. Baum‘s performance of Hick is engaging and endearing, and also consists of many direct quotes from the letters that Hickok wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt. Hick passionately pines for “the love of her life,” Eleanor, while intensely questioning her own self-worth. While the accuracy of the script is appreciated, it leaves one wanting a bit more informal expression and context to Hick’s emotional complexity.

The scene changes throughout the play are seamless thanks to Director, Carolyn Myers, and Lighting Designer, Stephanie Anne Johnson. The plot consists of history lessons interwoven with forbidden romance. At one point Hick gives a description of the state of the country during FDR’s presidency: “people are starving for no good reason other than that the wealthy and the banks played with the economic system until they broke it.” During the construction of FDR’s New Deal, Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt are engaged in a taboo, lesbian relationship.

The play captures the conflict that existed between Eleanor Roosevelt’s public life and the secrecy of the relationship, as well as the conflict between Hickok’s journalistic integrity and Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorable image. Little is remembered about Hickok’s journalism and work as Chief Investigator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Little is known about the details of the relationship between Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt. I recommend seeing “HICK: A Love Story” to gain a greater understanding of the lives of these two powerful women.

HICK: A Love Story
Where: Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., Berkeley, CA
When: January 2-25, 2015 – Thurs. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00pm – Sat. at 2:00pm – Sun. 5:00pm
Tickets: $20 – Pay-What-You-Can every Thursday
Contact: 800-838-3006 – www.crackpotcrones.com

Revae Hitt is a Guest contributor at InQueery.