If you are interested in reading a play about the affect the land has on our lives and welfare, run don’t walk to order or read your copy of “Tortoise Shell” by Mary Anneeta Mann.
This is the story of the settlers and pioneers who opened up North Queensland, Australia and the personal and professional battles they waged.
The play is an achingly sincere account of family and the definition of that word.
It also gives the reader a deeply telling glimpse of love and what that means.
Mann, who is a shining light as an author and playwright in Los Angeles, sinks her heart, soul and being into this play.
The tortoise shell being a sort of sign of the deceptive beauty of country or earth.
After all, it is the three main characters in this story: Frederick Toll, his son Benjamin Toll and the Scottish Captain Sinclair that stand for nothing less than truth, honesty, dignity and integrity.
It is these elements that “Tortoise Shell” embraces like a dying son bidding farewell to his father for the last time.
The language is nothing less than beautiful and electric and supports each character’s motivation throughout.
The Third Act, in its powerful imagery and heartbreaking dialogue, in particular, is emblazoned with logic, reason and compassion of the type which one rarely sees in a play or piece of literature
Mann, whose other plays include”ANZAC,” the Play,”TWO FAMILY PLAYS, “Maria and the Comet,” and “ThuGun and Natasha,” has also written theatrical guidebooks for the City of Angels, and
tomes about philosophy, science and
religion, not to mention two robust collections of poetry.
The North Hollywood, CA resident has penned two editions of “The Los Angeles Theatre Book,” 1978 and 1984, “HUBRIS, The Construction of Tragedy,” “Aristotle in the Theater Today,” “Science
and Spirituality,” edited with Leland
Stewart, “Poems of Women,” “Mentoring Poems: Four centuries of Collected Poetry” and “There Are No Enemies, a Practical Philosophy of Life.”
The Irwin Award-winning writer has a habit of basing plays on actual human history.
Here the message and tone of the play could not be any clearer.
Mann, a former member of the renamed North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, herself descended from these early North Queensland, Australia pioneers and settlers
described in this play with such vivid ferocity and strength.
But it is to the land that Mann returns again and again in this brilliant chronicle of courage spilled and oft wasted, faith personified and hope immortalized.
For example, take a passage from Captain Sinclair in Act One, Scene Two:”…
And watch life going on
Without wanting to do
Something with it.
When I’m exploring an inlet
And the water’s crystal clear
And calm as a lake
And the sand so white
And the trees that green,
With the yellow tinge
Flowing over them,
I love this land.
I love it man
And I GIVE myself to the ocean
When I put out to sea
And the air is still and trembling
And the sea takes care of me!”
Such beautiful words are the life blood and oxygen of this work of art.
They course through the veins of each character, minor to major, to remind us, the readers, that what matters most in this life is not Winter, Autumn or Summer, but Spring, when colors are born,
philosophies defined and feelings
Mann does a masterful job of shaping and molding each character individually.
Not one character in this tranquil, meditative, yet highly active, study of peace, self-defense and race is like any other.
In fact, it is Frederick Toll, the play’s guiding light, who has some of the most appealing, compelling and unforgettable lines, such as in Act Two, Scene Five:
“Do you see that ocean?
If you have swum it
And buffeted the shoals and the reeds…
And you have made the bank,
And stand on a rock secure,
Will you throw yourself back in the water
And struggle to destroy
A black man who hurls a spear at you
As he flounders in mid-stream?”
All in all, “Tortoise Shell” succeeds because of its rugged association with the earth, not despite it.
These settlers are men and women of great faith, hope and understanding.
To them, humanity is a gift not an obstacle, life something to be cherished not merely survived.
As is Mann an extraordinary playwright who will hopefully give us more psychological studies and personal histories of this top-notch kind that sway, solidify and unsnarl the past and its spider
web of dreams, dares and drama.
Because in the end, the only way to move boldly into tomorrow is to give yesterday its necessary due.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Tortoise Shell Written by Mary Anneeta Mann
Published by AuthorHouse
Available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com
Review of Mary Anneeta Mann’s Latest Play TORTOISE SHELL May 27th, 2019Radomir Vojtech Luza