Jaclyn Backhaus’s Wives, at Playwrights Horizons under the direction of Margot Bordelon, is a raucous, funny, well-acted, and well-intentioned production that suffers from intermittent heavy-handedness and whose four distinct parts don’t fully cohere. The final of the four vignettes that comprise the 80-minute play tries to wrangle the previous three stories, which originated as ideas for three separate plays, into a harmonious symmetry, but it only muddies the waters so that Wives ends up feeling like partially thought-out ideas awaiting fuller exploration.
Too Heavy for Your Pocket, Jiréh Breon Holder’s engrossing new drama, takes place in spring 1961, as busloads of activists, black and white together, are plunging southward from Nashville to Montgomery, Ala., and New Orleans, challenging illegal segregation of public transportation on Interstate highways. Known as the Freedom Riders, the activists are traveling under the auspices of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizations crucial to the burgeoning American civil rights movement. Over more than six months, several waves of nonviolent Freedom Riders will subject themselves to varied forms of hostility, from burning crosses and vulgar epithets to life-threatening violence and brutal incarceration, in the hope of effecting social change.