Manhattan, NY – Lola calls out for Little Sheba, exclaiming – “Come back, Little Sheba, Come back” – she desires to be the woman she once was, but the hope of Sheba and Lola’s youthfulness are lost to time.
Set in the Midwest during the 1950s, “Come Back, Little Sheba’s” leading lady, S. Epatha Merkerson delivers a realistic performance in this Broadway revival as Lola. Merkerson is better known for her role on “Law & Order” as Lt. Anita Van Buren.
As one of the only blacks in the play, she totally distances herself from any role the audience may have seen her in; Merkerson usually portrays a woman who is strong and self-assured.
Merkerson shows a great deal of elasticity as an actress in this role. The role calls for her to portray a timid and insecure white housewife. She longs to live as she did in her youth, dancing and experiencing life with her husband who is a recovering alcoholic – Doc (Kevin Anderson).
Since she does not experience life herself, she is fixated on trying to live vicariously through others; whether it is the postman, milkman or even her next-door neighbor. She even takes an interest in the life of her tenant, Marie. Marie (Zoe Kazan) has a fiancé and a classmate she has a short-lived love affair.
The male lead, Anderson, in his role as Doc brings you into the life of a recovering alcoholic. Focused on staying clean he seemingly is the lovable and perfect husband until he has a relapse and tries to kill his wife with a hatchet. The emotion and pain from a life of dreams not achieved is more than expressed as he lusts after Marie.
Like a schoolboy with his first crush, he goes out of his way to have more intimate interactions with the young woman by asking to walk her to the bus for instance. Anderson accomplishes the feat of conveying the jealousy he has for the men in Marie’s life. Before they were married Lola became pregnant and Doc resents Lola as he feels that he was trapped into marrying her.
Merkerson is successful in drawing the audience into the anxiety that comes with worrying about a loved one. She is absolutely remarkable as she searches for comfort from her “daddy,” an affectionate name she has given to Doc.
The loneliness and loss of hope is symbolized as she lets go of the memory of Sheba, her beautiful dog that ran away. The resolution leaves the audience uneasy though, as there is no longer a chance for change only complacency for the main character.
The Broadway play that was shown at the Baltimore theatre ended its run on March 16. The story, although it has a great deal of realism, is rather depressing. Like so many couples, Doc requests complete devotion throughout his battle. The only problem within this equation is Lola is expected to give all the emotions without receiving any. The play leaves you with a bad taste in the mouth.