“Fannie” roughly runs a quick, brief 75 minutes, which doesn’t always allow for ample time to delve very deeply into some of the significant events that are, as a result, only fleetingly referenced in the script. Similarly, while they are well-delivered, most of the musical numbers feel like mere snippets of actual songs, essentially functioning as segues between this historical anecdote and that one. Among the more noteworthy gospel tune excerpts in the show: “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”
At times, Fannie —or West’s theatrical representation of her, that is — is prone to simply dropping famous names here and there (e.g., President Lyndon Johnson, assassinated NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, or James Cheney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the abducted and murdered “Freedom Summer” student activists). Much more revealing are the character’s first-hand experiences — refusing to give up the fight in exercising her right to vote in Mississippi, or retelling how she was jailed and brutally beaten during a South Carolina bus tour.
Her private role as a wife and mother remains vague at best. In one of her most personal moments, Fannie reflects on the tragic death of a daughter. The segment is poignantly played by McGee, but the script doesn’t set it up sufficiently. By basically making do with a passing mention of the young girl ahead of time, the scene somehow rings hollow, lacking the emotional pay-off it deserves, as if it were merely one more anecdote about a woman whose life was much more than just so many tidbits.
Through July 10. 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 11 a.m. Thursdays (June 30 and July 7). $15-$45. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road SW, Atlanta. 470-639-8241, www.truecolorstheatre.org.
Bottom line: Simply conceived, moderately effective.