HOUSE ARREST is a fascinating and compelling look at nothing less than the civil rights movement, the issues of slavery and racism, and the relationship between the press and the presidency over the course of American history. It begins by focusing on Jefferson and his fine words versus the likelihood that he had a long-standing affair with one of his slaves. From there HOUSE ARREST changes gears and moves forward to Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and examines how his affairs and disabilities were considered untouchable by the press. Smith interviewed many of the major players in American politics in the second half of the twentieth century and demonstrates the way politics has changed since Roosevelt's administration. The play then jumps back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and compares that event and the Kennedy assassination. The range of voices and opinions that appear in the play make for vivid and interesting theatre. HOUSE ARREST is a triumph of Smith's writing skills. In the course of over two hours, Smith weaves together historical writing and her own interviews with some 420 people both inside and outside of presidential politics. It's a fascinating blend of history and commentary that is by turns illuminating, heartening and saddening.
"The patterns realized by the juxtaposition of the interviews [is] enlightening. HOUSE ARREST finds a resonant chain of echoes in both historical and contemporary accounts of the very public nature of this country's highest public office, of the president as superstar whose actions are monitored and to some extent determined by a restless audience of fans and critics…" —NY Times . "The voices she so vividly brings to life are all worthy of attention, the issues they raise of continually engaging interest. As Deavere Smith's unique theatrical experiences have illustrated, history can be most revealing, not to mention most entertaining, when it's liberated from the books and caught on the wing, in the stuttering, stammering sounds of real human speech." —Variety.