Browse reviews

San Francisco Fringe 2019

HICK: A Love Story, Based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s Letters to Lorena Hickok

Terry Baum, Lilith Women's Theater (San Francisco CA)

Genre: Biographical Drama

Venue: Exit Theatre


Low Down

“When Eleanor Roosevelt became First Lady in 1933, she had a lesbian lover — Lorena Hickok, the most famous woman journalist of her day. The patrician First Lady’s affair with the hard-living butch reporter is set against the backdrop of FDR’s Presidency and the Great Depression. Internationally acclaimed solo performer Terry Baum tells this amazing story.”


Lorena Hickok, a NYC journalist, receives a phone call telling her “You gotta hire a gal reporter to cover the candidate’s wife…she’s a person!” Hickok, known as Hick, relays the message to her boss but is annoyed at being assigned the job. The US presidential candidate is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, known as FDR and the year is 1932. This sets into motion a fascinating and moving true story based on actual letters written to and from Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Terry Baum and Pat Bond wrote Hick: A Love Story – The Romance of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt, and in this play Mrs. Roosevelt’s letters are quoted with the permission of her estate.

Baum plays Hick, a business-like and tough news reporter, accustomed to doing grittier stuff. But she reluctantly goes to meet Mrs. Roosevelt and soon becomes smitten. The question is whether it might be mutual! Baum’s Hick speaks out loud her inner monologue of thoughts, hopes and emotions. Letters are exchanged, Eleanor Roosevelt to Hick and then from Hick to Eleanor. The relationship grows and the content in their shared letters and Hick’s comments to the audience are strong, warm and tender. 

Baum is a master storyteller and plays Hick with gusto and a range of emotions. She tells her stories – and adventures(!) by switching location seamlessly, from working on her typewriter at the office, then her apartment, the Russian Tea Room, and the White House. Baum is dynamic in her wit and has a strong compelling presence. She is spirited and speaks directly to the audience with expressive facial gestures and a mean side eye look!

The cast of three includes Tara Ayres as the Narrator and Loretta Janca playing Eleanor Roosevelt reading her letters out loud onstage, as she writes them to Hick. The latter choice splits the focus onstage and is slightly confusing visually when Eleanor is sitting in view onstage and Hick waltzes offstage partnering an imaginary Mrs. Roosevelt.

The set is simple and well designed by Vola Ruben, it sets the tone and period with the office area – denoted by a flat behind the desk with names of newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, New York Times; and in the White House area where Eleanor sits – the flat has large excerpts of Eleanor’s hand written letters. A few well-chosen props and costumes of the time all add to the atmosphere.

The story of both of these famous women and their secret romance ninety years ago is irresistible. Baum and Bond have written an enthralling play and this production is vivid, beautifully brought to life by Baum as Hick – and full of love.