In The Jacksonian, Beth Henley returns to the Southern Gothic storytelling that made her reputation with both critics and audiences. Set in a seedy motel in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1964, the play centers around Rosy, a troubled teenager, and Bill, her dentist father who has been living at the motel for several months as his wife, Susan, considers the disgrace of divorce. Fred, the motel bartender, and Eva, a waitress, are locked in a gruesome pact: he'll marry her if she agrees to help him evade punishment for a hideous crime. But Bill, turning to nitrous oxide to ease the pain of his life collapsing around him, is a convenient target for Eva's desperate desire for companionship. At the height of the violence associated with the civil rights movement, these characters gradually reveal the shameful secrets and psychological turmoil just beneath the surface of their insistent Southern gentility.
Beth Henley won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play for Crimes of the Heart (1978)and was nominated for an Academy Award for her screenplay based on the play. Her most recent plays include Sisters of the Winter Madrigal (2003) and Ridiculous Fraud (2007). Her screenwriting credits also include Nobody's Fool, True Stories (written with David Byrne), and Miss Firecracker, based on her play The Miss Firecracker Contest (1979).