THOUGHTS: John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

Latin History blackboard

Award-winning playwright, actor, and performer John Leguizamo in the world premiere of Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

John Leguizamo opens his new one-man show with a bit about his son getting bullied at his middle school. The bully comes from a long line of cops and veterans, or, as he puts it, “heroes.” To boost his son’s spirits and maybe his social standing, and because, as it turns out, his son actually has to write a paper about the subject to graduate 8th grade, Leguizamo decides to find a Latin American hero for his son to be proud of.

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TALKS: Actor Robby Ramos on HYSTERICAL at T. Schreiber Theatre

13557736_10157221449440601_2994830954315080431_nCurrently running at T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre is a world premiere of a new play written by Emmy nominated Disney Executive Jim Geoghan entitled, HYSTERICAL directed by Crystal Edn. A workshop production, this dark comedy finds an ideal venue in T. Schreiber’s intimate black box where the focus is on the fine actors telling the stories through complex character relationships in the setting of a Las Vegas mental hospital. One of the play’s most intriguing characters is Monroe, played by Robby Ramos, the hospital’s resident schizophrenic drug dealer. Robby Ramos is utterly captivating in this role, both hysterically funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Ramos is a standout in this production and Arts in Color had the pleasure of interviewing him!

AIC: Where are you from? When did you decide to become an actor?

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THOUGHTS: Red Velvet at the San Francisco Playhouse

Ira Aldridge (Carl Lumbly*) and Ellen Tree (Susi Damilano*) perform as Othello and Desdemona at the Covent Garden theatre.

Ira Aldridge (Carl Lumbly) and Ellen Tree (Susi Damilano) perform as Othello and Desdemona at the Covent Garden theatre. Photo Credit: Ken Levin

It is difficult to adequately portray in words the magnitude of the moment African-American actor Ira Aldridge appeared on stage at Covent Garden in the title role of Othello in 1833 London. Aldridge took over the role over from a dying Edmund Kean (who played Othello in brownface), an actor considered at the time to be the greatest interpreter of Shakespearean tragedy on the British stage. While Aldridge had already made a name for himself in smaller theatres and regional theatre, an actor of African descent on the most noted stage of early 19th century London, playing a dramatic lead role, moreover a romantic lead role opposite a famous white actress, was groundbreaking. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: runboyrun at the Magic Theatre

Disciple - runboyrun

Disciple (Adrian Roberts*) returns home from work on a cold Massachusetts evening.
(Photo credit Jennifer Reiley)

We are introduced to the story of runboyrun through ghosts, although we do not yet know that that is what they are. At the beginning of the play they are just two characters from a different time and place: Sister (Katherine Turner) and Boy (Rotimi Agbabiaka).

The meat of the action begins with Disciple (Adrian Roberts) returning home to his wife, Abasiama (Omoze Idehenre), who is buried under blankets, trying to keep out the frigid New England winter. After a tense exchange, he descends into the basement where he strips off his outerwear and tries to write about Nigeria. It is there in the basement that the ghosts come to him. He doesn’t see them, but he senses their presence, as they inhabit the space, to the point of physically invading his.

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THOUGHTS: Sojourners at the Magic Theatre

Sojourners-Press-3

Abasiama (Katherine Turner) is surprised by Moxie (Jamella Cross) during the graveyard shift at work. (Photo Credit Jennifer Reiley)

I admit that when I first read that Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners was part of a 9-play cycle of works about the same Nigerian immigrant family in Texas, my first reaction was wariness. Would this story feel complete or would I feel like I had merely seen a prologue to an unfinished longer tale? Would the characters I was about to meet really be intriguing and complex enough that they’d warrant 8 more stories about them? I needn’t have been concerned. I left the Magic Theatre feeling very much that I had seen a play with a complete narrative arc, yet wanting to know more about the bright, ambitious Abasiama (Katherine Renee Turner), balancing a late-term pregnancy with full-time studies on a Student Visa, her charming but woefully unreliable husband by arranged-marriage Ukpong (Jarrod Smith), the aptly nicknamed teen-prostitute Moxie (Jamella Cross) whom Abasiama befriends at the gas station where she works, and Abasiama’s devout, devoted admirer, the equally aptly named Disciple Ufot (Rotimi Agbabika). Continue reading

THOUGHTS: aubergine at Berkeley Rep

Ray and Lucien

(l to r) Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Lucien) and Tim Kang (Ray) in Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

aubergine opens with a single character, Diane (Safiya Fredericks), on a bare stage. Her appearance, and her monologue, could represent the next two hours: lean, contemplative, and full of food and familial relationships.

Ray (Tim Kang) is a chef whose relationship with his immigrant father (Sab Shimono) could be described as strained at best. But now his father is dying, and Ray is his primary caregiver.

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TALKS: Cheryl L Davis

Cheryl L Davis backstage at Bridges. Photo by Paul Chinn provided by the Berkeley Playhouse

Cheryl L Davis backstage at Bridges. Photo by Paul Chinn, provided by the Berkeley Playhouse

Arts in Color recently had the opportunity to interview multi-talented playwright, librettist, lyricist, and screenwriter Cheryl L Davis, who impressively balances her day job as a partner in a law firm with her award-winning writing career. In 2005, she won the prestigious Kleban Prize in Musical Theater for her work as a librettist. The same year, her musical Barnstormer was recognized with a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Award via the The Lark Play Development Center. More recently, a 2014 production of her play Maid’s Door was recognized with 7 Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO “VIV” Recognition Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre, including Best Playwright and Dramatic Production of the Year.

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THOUGHTS: Bridges at the Berkeley Playhouse

A fearful Francine Williams (Janelle Lasalle) marches for freedom on Bloody Sunday in Berkeley Playhouse's World Premiere production of Bridges: A New Musical directed by Karen Altree Piemme, performing at the Julia Morgan Theater, Now – March 6, 2016. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Francine Williams (Janelle Lasalle) marches for freedom on Bloody Sunday in 1965 Selma, Alabama. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

From now until March 6th, the Berkeley Playhouse is presenting the world premiere of Bridges, a musical by librettist Cheryl L. Davis and composer Douglas J. Cohen. Bridges is set in 1965 in Alabama during the Selma to Montgomery marches and in 2008 in the Bay Area, during a seminal election when Proposition 8 (making same-sex marriage illegal) was on the ballot and Barack Obama was in a race to become our nation’s first African American—and first biracial— president.

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THOUGHTS: Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau

DominiqueRubenPlaywright Dominique Morisseau and Tony® and Obie Award winning actor and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson team up with Atlantic Theater Company (Neil Pepe, Artistic Director; Jeffory Lawson, Managing Director) to present the world premiere of Morisseau ’s play Skeleton Crew.

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THOUGHTS: Disgraced at Berkeley Rep

Dinner party - Disgraced

(l to r) Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory), and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, an engrossing and combustible drama that probes the complexity of identity, at Berkeley Rep.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren

It seems Pakistani-American Amir Kapoor (Bernard White) is living the American Dream. He has an Upper East Side apartment complete with a balcony; a beautiful, blonde, artist wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis); and he is poised to make partner at his corporate law firm. But one New York Times story, and an explosive dinner party with his co-worker Jory (Zakiya Young) and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) threatens to shatter everything that he has worked for.

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THOUGHTS: Monstress at A.C.T.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose), a horror film screenwriter, and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu), plan their next film in Presenting...the Monstress!, a one-act play by Sean San Jose adapted from Monstress, Lysley Tenorio's collection of short stories. Monstress is performing at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater through November 22, 2015. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose) and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu) in Presenting…Monstress. Photo by Kevin Berne.

San Francisco’s A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theater) has inaugurated its new Strand Theater on Market Street with a pair of one-act plays based on the short stories of Bay Area author Lysley Tenorio. The first play, Remember the I-Hotel, begins in 1977 during the historically infamous evictions of long-time elderly residents from Manilatown’s I-Hotel. In a flashback to the 1930s the play reveals the backstory of two of these long-time residents, Vincente (played with believable magnetism by Philip Estrera) and Fortunado (played by the versatile Jomar Tagatac). The flashback introduces the pair as recent immigrants from the Philippines who meet for the first time in a San Francisco dance hall. Vicente and ‘Nado bond quickly and become the closest of companions at work, out on the town, and at home at the I-Hotel. They are inseparable until Vincente falls for the fresh from Wisconsin 18-year -old aspiring journalist Althea (Danielle Frimer), and embarks on an illegal interracial relationship with disastrous consequences.

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THOUGHTS: Othello The Moor of Venice

Debrah Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Debra Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Audacity [ôˈdasədē] NOUN: the willingness to take bold risks. Take Wings and Soar (TWAS) and New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG) has audacity! These two theatre groups collaborated to produce an all women version of William Shakespeare’s Othello. The play was first performed in 1604 in England with the title, “The Moor of Venice.” This time the basement of the St. James church at 141st street and St. Nicholas Avenue (The Dorothy Maynor Theatre) is 17th century Venice and Cyprus. TWAS and NHTG’S 2015 version, most of the time, hits the mark that any successful production might hope for. In addition, #DiversityOnStage is apparent in this production, which is what we love to see here on Arts In Color!

 

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