THE Listening Place has just offered the first of only two performances of The Tye More Binding, a selection of letters between John and Abigail Adams. Last chance to catch this engaging piece of readers theater will be 1:30pm, this Sunday, February 15, at the Monterey Museum of Art on Pacific Street.
Interesting the way David McCullough’s Pulitzer-winning biography and the subsequent HBO mini-series with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney have shifted interest and sympathy to a once neglected and undervalued Adams even as Thomas Jefferson undergoes increasing scrutiny of his personal [the Sally Hemings affair] and even his political leanings.
The name “Hemings” gets only a single mention, while the Adams-Jefferson rift and reconciliation (they died on the same July 4th, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence) earns a more complete airing in the letters, selected, compiled and given brief historical context notes by Colonial historian Lynn Hudson Parsons. But the main emphasis is on a marriage that maintained its warmth, intensity and passion in spite of John’s being overseas, nose to the political and diplomatic grindstone, for long stretches of his early years of marriage to the doughty, affectionate Abigail.
The long years apart spawned a treasure trove of letters, brought delightfully to life at the museum by Suzanne Sturn, who also directed, and by Robert Colter. Surely one of this area’s most gifted actors, Sturn is particularly winning in Abigail’s moments of focused, persuasive and indignant feminism. Her comments on the unexamined chauvinism of the founding fathers sometimes push John, never noted for his restraint in speaking up, into silent, strategic retreat. Colter has never been better. He gives full play to Adams’ pomposity without sacrificing the man’s humanity or his playful humor.
Admission to the performance is by Museum membership or a day ticket well worth $10.00. (Photo by Susan Keenan)