Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On SLAVE PLAY At Mark Taper Forum

Now on stage in Los Angeles through March 13th.

By: Feb. 21, 2022

Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On SLAVE PLAY At Mark Taper Forum Last week marked opening night of the West Coast premiere of playwright Jeremy O. Harris' unflinching new work Slave Play in Los Angeles at the Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum now through March 13, 2022.

The cast of features Broadway company members, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Jonathan Higginbotham, Devin Kawaoka, Chalia La Tour, Irene Sofia Lucio, Paul Alexander Nolan, Jakeem Dante Powell and Elizabeth Stahlmann. Understudies include Jordan Lis Cooper, Rashaad Hall, Kineta Kunutu, James Patrick Nelson and Galen J. Williams. Williams was also involved in the Broadway production.

The creative team for the West Coast premiere of "Slave Play" includes Clint Ramos (scenic design), Dede Ayite (costume design), Jiyoun Chang (lighting design), Lindsay Jones (sound design and original music), Cookie Jordan (hair and wig design), Byron Easley (movement) and Teniece Divya Johnson (intimacy and fight direction - based on the original intimacy and fight direction by Claire Warden and Teniece Divya Johnson). Casting is by Taylor Williams and Victor Vazquez. Kelly A. Martindale is the production stage manager.

Tickets for "Slave Play" are currently on sale for production at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre and start at $30. They are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Charles McNulty, LA Times: As a white critic, I've appreciated the opportunity to listen not only to Black characters digging into difficult truths but also to the sound of my own silence. It's not that I haven't found myself arguing with "Slave Play." But each time I've seen the work, I've had a different reaction, which to me is a sign of the work's complexity.

Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly: Slave Play is certainly not for everyone; it opens a can of worms of impossibly difficult questions. But the fact is, if culture won't start these conversations, won't force us to examine these issues from the relative anonymity of a dark theater, who or what will? Harris has lit the fuse, but the rest of us have to choose to weather the explosion.

Evan Henerson, BroadwayWorld: Nolan walks a razor-fine line as Jim, a character marooned somewhere between being heroic and horrific. The actor - who created this role and his played it in both Broadway engagements - is neither looking for sympathy nor asking us to judge. His focus, ironically enough, is entirely upon the wants and needs of someone else. That would, of course, be Kaneisha, who Crowe-Legacy presents as a complicated amalgam of needs, scars, self-awareness and rage. Of all the journeys of SLAVE PLAY, Kaneisha's is the most terrifying and Crowe-Legacy is the production's beating heart.

Elaine Mura, Splash Mags: SLAVE PLAY is definitely a thought-provoking piece skillfully helmed by Robert O'Hara. This is a play which reveals multiple deep-seated problems and long-term stresses in American society - for which there are no simple answers or quick fixes. The entire cast does an excellent job of making sense of the conundrums inherent in the racial theme - while keeping the audience on their toes and the fur flying. SLAVE PLAY is meant to be uncomfortable, just as racial conflict is uncomfortable. This is a play which asks more questions than it answers - perhaps appropriate at this point in time. It can be entertaining and funny - but, at its base, this is serious stuff.

Steven Stanley, Stage Scene LA: There's not a weak link in Slave Play's powerhouse New York cast, and I can only imagine how taxed Crowe-Legacy, Higginbotham, Kawaoka, La Tour, Lucio, Nolan, Powell, and Stahlmann must be by their roles' intensive demands (including some of the most intimate contact I've witnessed on an L.A. stage) and how drained they must be by the time they take their bows.


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