The shows history, all-pervasiveness followed by embarrassed silence, explains why few living Americans have ever seen Uncle Toms Cabin, but also why everyone has heard of it. Uncle Tom, Topsy, Little Eva, Simon Legree, and Eliza crossing the ice are all embedded in the public mind, but only as the exaggerations they became. Retaining only the cartoon images, memory has blanked out the facts (Legree is not Elizas pursuer; Evas death moves Topsy to reform); it allows troubling figures like St. Clare and Miss Ophelia to vanish altogether.
The willed amnesia endemic to our public life makes an effort like the Metropolitans salutary by definition. Additionally, Alex Roes production solved many of the challenges involved by deploying his sparse resources swiftly and lucidly. His actors, though uneven in talent, all met the difficulty of their roles head-on: Marcie Henderson (Eliza), George Lee Miles (Uncle Tom), and Alex Marshall-Brown (Topsy) found the germ of truth inside Aikens ornate phrases; Peter Tedeschi found real fun in a white sympathizers by-cracky dialect. But greater than their individual abilities was the gratifying sense of a historical memory recaptured. Backsliding as our country currently is, we need many more such reminders.