Theater Reviews by Morna

Morna Martell

February is Black History month and here are two shows I recommend that resonate with the times.

A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS – on YouTube

I remember Beah Richards’ extraordinary performance in her powerful one-woman play at Inner City Cultural Center in 1975. Standing alone, she passionately points out how in the 19th century, while white women were oppressed, they turned their frustration on to their enslaved black sisters instead of their true oppressors. She was first acclaimed for portraying Sidney Poitier’s mother in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” for which she received an Academy Award nomination. However, I knew her as a notable Broadway actress prior to this, starring in James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” as well as “Purlie Victorious,” “A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Miracle Worker.”¬† Her career on television, in numerous roles, culminated in Emmy Awards for “Frank’s Place” in 1988, and “The Practice” in 2000. Her show was filmed live and can be seen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/_ii8kwAKw4g

OTHELLO – online

Since its official premiere in London in 1604, this only one of Shakespeare’s plays to have a Black leading character, has been a challenge for white actors. Still, when Paul Robeson took on the role in London in 1930, he was the first Black actor to perform it since Ira Aldridge in 1826. Then, in 1943 in New York City, he was the first African American to play Othello in a major Broadway production. This month, the Robey Theatre Company, founded in 1994 by Danny Glover and Ben Guillory, will present an online performance of “Othello” with Guillory in the title role, directed by Tom Ormeny of Burbank’s Victory Theatre. For this free event registration begins on February 1st. and you will be sent a link to attend the show that will air on February 28 at 2:00 p.m. Register at: http://therobeytheatrecompany.org/our-events.

UNRAVELLED – Online

Based on true events, and research at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center, playwright Jake Broder explores how art, music and science intersect with apparent mental decline. His drama explores the connection between the work of French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Canadian painter Anne Adams (1940-2007). Both were in the early stages of progressive aphasia, a form of dementia, while they were still working. The disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, resulting in a torrent of creativity. This virtual premiere is sponsored by UCSF’s Global Brain Health Institute and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Directed by Nike Doukas, the play will begin streaming on February 25 at 4 p.m. and will be free and on demand through March 31. Two live seminars featuring experts in the field, including Dr. Bruce Miller, who diagnosed Adams, will take place on Feb 25 and March 3. Link up at: www.UnRavelledPlay.com

STORYBOOK THEATRE – on YouTube

Lloyd J. Schwartz and Barbara Mallory have been presenting interactive musicals for young audiences for 36 years. Having seen some of their shows, I can assure you that their adaptations from classic tales, featuring beloved characters, are non-violent and non-scary but absolutely delightful. Sadly, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, young audiences have not been able to go and see Storybook Theatre in person. However, good news! Six of their audience-favorite shows are now available any time, on demand, for FREE! The series contains “Sleeping Beauty” “Hansel and Gretel” “Little Red Riding Hood” “The Princess and the Frog” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Goldilocks.” Shows range from 43-58 minutes and are suitable for kids age 5-9. All written, directed and performed by members of Theatre West, on Cahuenga¬† Blvd. Click on: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTjDWrRQyg9Lprr725zRsj-uiGTUJTlqz

 

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