Political morality? Oh, yes.

Voice of Good Hope

Speaking truth to power is never easy, but that doesn’t mean you can avoid it.

Speaking truth to power is never easy, but that doesn’t mean you can avoid it.

PHOTO courtesy of Celebration Arts

Voice of Good Hope, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$15. Celebration Arts, 4469 D Street; (916) 455-2787; www.celebrationarts.net. Through August 4.
Rated 4.0

Let’s say there’s a woman who believes in the U.S. Constitution. Not just waves it around, but believes in it, as a set of principles that make possible a constantly improving, always optimistic nation that is filled with constantly improving, always optimistic people.

And let’s say that she’s black and Southern.

Then let’s calculate the odds of her becoming a member of the House of Representatives, the moral conscience of the legislative branch of the U.S. government during one of its most trying periods and a lauded professor of constitutional law and ethics.

That woman could only be Barbara Jordan, and if she didn’t gamble, it’s because she’d already beaten the odds.

Kristine Thatcher’s play about the life of Jordan, Voice of Good Hope, moves back and forth through time, giving us scenes of her as a professor, a congresswoman, a young girl growing up in the segregated South and a dying woman relying on her beloved companion of many years.

The good news is that Thatcher makes excellent use of Jordan’s own words. The even better news is that Voress Franklin pulls out all the stops in an inspired portrayal of this political legend. Franklin is aided by a handful of fine performances—most notably Lisa Derthick as Nancy Earl, Jordan’s companion of 30 years, and Alicia Morris as Julie Dunn, a former student of Jordan’s running for state office in Texas, with whom Jordan has a deep disagreement.

This is an honest and sensitive portrayal of Jordan that manages to be both as revealing and as intensely private as she was in her too-short life. Franklin has both the necessary gravitas and the bone-deep sense of humor to make Jordan first and foremost a person.

Under James Wheatley’s direction, the show moves quickly, with a flexible set and quick scene changes.

The bottom line, though, is that Jordan was one of a kind, and hearing Franklin bring her political morality to life is both thrilling and disheartening, since we seem plagued by a lack of Jordan’s equals.