Red Velvet - Theatre Review

A review by Suzanne Birrell

If you have a hunger for a good solid evening of theatre with a great story and arc then do make your reservations for Red Velvet now playing at  the Atwater Playhouse (not to be confused as I did with the Atwater Theatre a couple of blocks away)

Red Velvet is based on the life of Ira Aldridge, an American actor who became one of the highest paid actors of his time in Europe. The story opens with an elderly Mr. Aldridge, (magnificently played by Paul Outlaw-left) sporting a cute pot belly, in his dressing room with a very persistent Polish Reporter (Kailena Mai-left). Through her questions we are quickly provided insight into the life of this astonishing man. The second scene goes back 34 years old to behind the scenes at the highly esteemed Covent Garden in London on the night after the great Edmund Kean collapsed on stage. Ira Aldridge is being proposed as his replacement and the troupe has very mixed feelings. Mr. Aldridge makes his appearance to the troupe and the drama - and the comedy - really begin. Have I failed to point out that Mr. Aldridge was black? The character Ellen Tree states, "I thought black was describing his temperament." That night Ira Aldridge became the first black actor to play a principal role in a Shakespearean Tragedy of the legitimate stage in London. That he was playing the role of a Moor and the press could not fathom it is irony in itself.

Red Velvet totally satisfies with rich performances all around. Paul Outlaw gets to play several parts. That of an old and young Ira Aldridge as well as on the stage and in the dressing room rehearsing the part of Othello and in the final scene going white face to play Lear. Ben Warner (right) is very strong as Charles Kean , the son of Edmond Kean and who thinks the theatre should go dark rather than have a black man play the part of the Moor, and furthermore, he doesn't like his fiancée being "pawed." Nicola Bertram (right) is marvelous as Ellen Tree, the fiancée who argues that "they said the same thing about woman playing the parts of women in Shakespeare." The Theatre Manager Pierre Laporte whom we discover is a good friend of Aldridge is played with vim, vigor and passion by Colin Campbell.  Dee Dee Stevens plays the part of Connie the servant with quiet dignity until her moment to shin and shine she does. Connie gives us words that still ring true: People sees what they want to see. Erin Elizabeth Reed gives much depth to the character of Margaret Aldridge, wife of Ira. Sean C Dwyer, Adam Chacon, and Amanda Charney round out the very talented cast.

The director Benjamin Pohlmeier is to be much congratulated. The full two hour show seem to fly by even with beautifully painted silences. The moments when Aldridge was reading the reviews was especially rich. And when he was putting on his white grease paint was almost heartbreaking. The costumes by Kristina Moore were rich in texture and color. The Stage manager was kept busy with the thoughtful changes in the set. The writing by Lolita Chakrabarti was exquisite. Lots of witty dialogue. The audience collectively responded to some of the well-crafted insults.

Red Velvet presented by The Junction Theatre offers a wonderful night of theatre. A great story well directed and exquisitely acted. I have a hard time believing this story took so long to get to the west coast. Even harder to believe Hollywood has not got their hands on this one because it is a great story. Definitely go see this one. A large free parking lot leaves no excuses.

Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m., March 26 - April 30, 2016.  Tickets can be purchased by calling Brown Paper Tickets 24/7 at 1-800-838-3006, or online at General Admission is $25 per person; Students, Seniors and Veterans are $20 per person; and Groups of 10 or more $15 per person.  To learn more, please visit www.thejunctiontheatre.organd

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                        The running time of the show is 120 minutes.

Large gated free parking lot

Posted By Suzanne Birrell on March 28, 2016 02:31 pm | Permalink