Saturday, August 15, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt at Drom by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Terry Baum's Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt at Drom was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Hick: A Love Story, 
The Romance Of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt
Written & Performed by Terry Baum
Additional Writing Contribution by Pat Bond
Directed by Adele Prandini
Dramaturgy by Carolyn Myers
85 Avenue A
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/14/15 

The first show I decided to see at the 19th Annual New York International Fringe Festival was the highly anticipated one-woman show by Terry Baum entitled Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt, which had its New York City premiere at Drom. It is set in 1968 when Lorena Hickok is considering whether to destroy or donate (to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York) the remaining 2,336 letters (that survived her purge) written to her by Eleanor Roosevelt from 1932 right up to 1962, the year of Eleanor's death. The play then focuses on the time period from 1932-1934 and we get to experience in detail how the two met and the ups and downs of their early relationship. Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt is a moving, brilliantly written and acted one-woman play that keeps your attention from the very beginning of their relationship to the very end when Hickok, after destroying some of the more salacious letters written between the two of them, decides to donate the remainder of the letters to the Presidential Library. Hick is afraid her dear friend will be hated and despised for having been involved in an adulterous relationship with another woman. In addition, since Hick admired FDR, she was struggling with how she can reveal to the world that she was having an affair with his wife. However, after 30 years of love, Hick finally concludes, "People will never understand, but they will know. I want people to know. I want you to know!"

In May of 1978, Doris Faber visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York to do research for a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. While there, she found 18 filing boxes willed to the Library by Lorena Hickok, a close confidante of Eleanor's, with the instructions, "Not to be opened until ten years after my death." Hick had died exactly 10 years earlier. Faber found 2,336 letters from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickok, several hundred of which are noted as being particularly intimate. In 1980, Ms. Faber wrote a full-length biography entitled The Life Of Lorena Hickok: E.R.'s Friend. The Faber biography inspired Pat Bond, a lesbian monologist, to write a solo play on Hick in 1984 entitled Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, A Love Story. For the 2012 National Queer Arts Festival, Terry Baum, the writer and performer of this one-woman show, read a segment of Pat's play focusing on the very beginning of their relationship. Audience reaction there was so overwhelmingly positive that Terry Baum developed a workshop version in 2013 during a SAFEhouse for the Arts residency at The Garage in San Francisco, which was followed by her spending a week at the FDR Library doing research, and then actually speaking to people who knew Lorena Hicks. Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt premiered on July 10, 2014 at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, and had a second run at Berkeley City Club in January, 2015. Now, New Yorkers are able to hear what is in many of those letters since Terry Baum, the playwright, obtained permission from Nancy Roosevelt Ireland, Eleanor Roosevelt's literary executor, to quote Eleanor Roosevelt's letters to Lorena Hickok in this show.

Lorena Hickok (known as Hick) was one of the country's highest-paid female reporters with her own by-line working for the Associated Press in 1932 covering Franklin Delano Roosevelt's campaign for President. When she suggested a woman reporter be assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt on the campaign trail, to her dismay, she ended up getting the job. Eleanor Roosevelt (who signed her letters E.R.), once said a woman gets her name in the paper only three times (when she's born, when she gets married, and when she dies), and while she didn't normally trust reporters, she came to rely on Hick as a personal friend, from whom she sought advice and counsel. Hick, a big FDR fan, was ultimately compromised when she allowed FDR's Advisor to pre-approve her articles on Eleanor before she submitted them to the Associated Press. In the end, when she refused to betray Eleanor's trust by revealing any of the inside information she learned, it cost Hick her job with the AP. She later worked with the Roosevelt administration reporting to Harry Hopkins with respect to where the New Deal was working and where it was not.

It must have been obvious Hick was a lesbian (described once by Time Magazine as "rumpled, masculine and fat") but Mrs. Roosevelt, who at 15 years old, attended Allenwood Academy in London (an English Boarding School for Girls), was very open-minded about the topic, with her four best friends being two lesbian couples. There is no doubt in my mind that Hick was more in love with E.R. than E.R. was with her, especially since Hick exhibited all the bad traits of being jealous and possessive. Hick clearly was interested in having Eleanor Roosevelt as her lesbian lover. According to Hicks side of the story, after many months spent on a campaign train together, she invited Eleanor Roosevelt to the Russian Tea Room for lunch, during which she said, "I love you and not just as a sister or a friend." Eleanor Roosevelt supposedly responded, "Don't you know I love you too!". Eventually, Hick gave Eleanor a ring and said "will you be mine?" and Eleanor accepted the ring and wore it to FDR's inauguration ("Oh! I want to put my arms around you, I ache to hold you close. Your ring is a great comfort. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn't be wearing it." - a passage of a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickok). 

According to Hick, for Eleanor love had always been about serving others and now, finally, she found someone who loved her and whom she could love. I think it is an open question whether Hick and Eleanor had a passionate love affair and had sex with each other. It is not unthinkable that Eleanor gave Hick what she wanted and enjoyed the experiences along the way. But in the end, Eleanor knew she had to pull away when Hick became too demanding and distraught whenever Eleanor needed to cancel an appointment or was too busy with her own duties as First Lady. She explained this to Hick by telling her that they "must do their best in an imperfect world."

The funniest lines in this magnificent show are when Lorena Hickok's character turns to the audience and says, "I see some of you are familiar with what goes on in an English Boarding School," as well as when she says, "When you've been had by Eleanor Roosevelt, you stay had!" I highly recommend you make a special effort to see this show. It is a hit you shouldn't miss! Terry Baum delivers the performance of a lifetime as Lorena Hickok in this triumphant production! All the time and effort put into making this one-woman a smashing success is evident in this audience-pleasing masterpiece. There are four remaining presentations of Hick: A Love Story, The Romance Of Lorena Hick & Eleanor Roosevelt. Tickets cost $18.00 and are available at  

No comments:

Post a Comment