DREAM OF OPHELIA, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. There’s enough plot and character packed into this play to fill a whole series of novels; the result is a script made up almost entirely of exposition and confrontation. But Sybil J. Roberts’s yarn is so richly fashioned, so historically intriguing, and so emotionally engaging that we find ourselves impatient for intermission to be over–like children, we wanna know what happens next.

Anchoring the story is Miss Ophelia, a former slave whose determination to give her children a better life has made her the proprietor of a “sportin’ house.” The year is 1863, and both her sons, ambivalent about the source of their privilege, are intent on joining the Union army, risking death on the battlefield–or, worse, capture by Confederate soldiers, who will treat them as renegade slaves. In the end they all do what they feel they must–but not until their decisions have been exhaustively argued. Then their choices are sorely tested.

Ron OJ Parson directs a virtuoso cast led by Greta Oglesby as the proud Ophelia and Willie B. Goodson as her avuncular companion; all are proficient at playing not only Roberts’s eminently articulate dialogue but the eloquent silences suggested by Robert C. Martin’s delicately detailed set. Coming after last autumn’s In the Wine Time, this highly professional production points the way for ETA to become the world-class company its founders always said it could be.

–Mary Shen Barnidge