LOS ANGELES, CA - The Junction Theater presented the West Coast Premiere of the critically acclaimed play Red Velvet , written by Lolita Chakrabarti , directed by Benjamin Pohlmeir at the Atwater Playhouse here. Award winning playwright and actress Lolita Chakrabarti’s daring and mesmerising play has come with a roster...
The play is a brilliant staging concept with a sterling cast of ten, focusing the attention of the audience to both text and performance. The precise but scathing writing becomes crucial to the riveting story of a black man cast as the Moor Othello at Covent Garden in 1832. Edmund Kean, the legendary tragedian of the British Theater had taken ill and in a unique twist of events, in stepped Ira Aldridge a black actor from America. Racism, and passion for the stage sustains the theatrical context when Charles the son of Kean who was playing the role of Iago imagined he would be chosen as the lead. And the real life jealousy and humiliation of the actor is vividly portrayed when he discovers his fiancée who was cast as Desdemona now has to play the lover of Othello.
We are lured into an extraordinary tale with imagined experiences, based on a real life story where the black actor Ira Aldridge is thrust into a cauldron of resentment, anger, rattled nerves and hatred
Othello was staged at a time when there was rioting in the streets due to the Abolition of the Slavery Act. What happens when a courageous lot of people dare to challenge social and historical norms? The theater where the play was staged was burned down and the company was threatened and assaulted, and had to move several times. This was the time when slavery was big business and the pro slavery lobbyists wrote with conviction about the positive effects of slavery.
Despite the turbulence and ferocious hatred simmering around us, Lolita Chakraborti melds the dynamic script with engaging wit, openness and poignancy. She brings into sharp focus the play’s contemporary relevance showcasing the dynamics of play rehearsals and sparks off class discord, race relations and life changing decisions that make Red Velvet a total, compelling theatrical experience.
And what of IraAldridge? He toured many countries, was the highest paid actor in the world and had many honors bestowed on him .One hundred and fifty years after his death he is the subject of novels, plays, musicals , poems, radio broadcast productions and theatrical films .He was granted English Citizenship in 1863.
Red Velvet opened in 2012 with artistic director of the Tricycle Theater Indhu Rubasingham in London and sold out in a few days.
Attending the play at the intimate Atwater Playhouse, the audience was immediately drawn in by the taut absorbing drama, where ten actors delivered virtuoso performances. The gifted Director Benjamin Pohlmeier brought the elements of theater together with rapid shifts of mood, adroitly handling the skills of the consummate actors in a compelling manner.
The daring provocative play was interpreted with intuition and intelligence by the actors. Paul Outlaw as Othello resonated with fierce dignity and Nicola Bertram as Ellen Tree brought innocent charm and glow to her role as Desdemona. Ben Warner the humiliated Iago superseded by a black actor was powerful and scorched the stage with his arrogance.Colin Campbell as the French director Pierre Laporte came into his own in a brilliant confrontation with Othello.
Other cast members Halina Wozniak,Sean C Dwyer, Adam Chacon, Amanda Charney, Dee Dee Stephens and Erin Elizabeth Reed have distinguished themselves in theater and film and in this play, they have added luminosity and exhilaration . Minimal props and crafted lighting strengthened the play of politics, racism and the art of theater.
Red Velvet runs on Fridays Saturdays, Sundays till April 30.For tickets visit: http://redvelvet.brown papertickets.com