Dienye Waboso (left) and Oyin Oladejo work well together as the older and younger Harriet Tubman in The Power of Harriet T!
The exciting story of Harriet Tubman is both inspiring and a fine source for a dramatic tale. Born a slave in Maryland, Tubman escaped with the help of Quakers, first to Pennsylvania and then Canada by means of the Underground Railroad. Returning on 11 missions to the States, she led 300 blacks to freedom.
As we learn in Michael Miller's The Power Of Harriet T!, she never lost one of her charges. Miller's play for family audiences, a perfect production for Black History Month, introduces young viewers from eight to 15 to this extraordinary woman.
His script offers two versions of Tubman, younger (Oyin Oladejo) and older (Dienye Waboso), who interact both to narrate and enact Tubman's journey from house slave to freedom fighter.
Director Tanisha Taitt's production scores on a number of levels, beginning with the chemistry between Oladejo and Waboso, who also play various other characters in a series of vignettes and musical numbers. The always reliable Waboso is especially impressive, quickly morphing with a change of voice, physicality and hat from Tubman to her mother, grandmother and a runaway man.
The others in the cast - Michael Blake, Hannah Cheesman and Matthew Owen Murray - also shift roles, portraying both sympathetic and heartless figures in Tubman's history, played out on Kimberly Purtell's set of ramps and stairs. Taitt's use of the ramps is key in the tortuous journey of a group of escaped slaves to Canada, in which each member supports others who start to fall behind.
Some of the narrative, such as Tubman's relationship with her grasping husband, could be developed more. But other moments are suggestively layered, as when the older Harriet - nicknamed Moses - recounts a conversation with a man on the "train" who gets cold feet about leaving home.
Freedom isn't easy, concludes the hour-long piece, but it's crucial to a sense of self-worth. That's a lesson for everyone, of any age.