In his Rebel Women (Ohio Theatre), Thomas Babe advances a novel theory about the Civil War: it was a battle of the sexes. At the time he was writing— 1976— male feminists were declaring themselves. So the melodrama may have made some contextual sense. William Tecumseh Sherman, on his march through Georgia, appropriates as temporary headquarters a home in which four women are living. Mrs. Mary Law Robarts, whose husband is being held hostage, reins in her antipathy to Yankees and ingratiates herself with Sherman, while a companion, Katherine King, seduces a merchant traveling with the marauding army. Though an ambivalent Lysistrata, the pregnant Mrs. Robarts gulls the war-weary general. Today, Babe’s play seems hollow and inaccurate. Hatred of Sherman was so profound, no Southern woman would have compromised her honor in the fashion Babe suggests. Little persuasion is added by Windsor Repertory’s slipping-accents production, with actor-founder Mark Shelton as Sherman.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 2, 1999