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Review: GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES at Shakespeare & Company

Review: GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES at Shakespeare & Company

Is Vaudeville Truly Gone, and if Not, Should it Be?

With a script that's been revisited and deepened by the playwright 30 years after it was first published, Shakespeare & Company presents GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES by Charles Smith, at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre. Directed by Raz Golden, GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES takes place over the course of one afternoon in the early 1990s, post-LA Riots, and explores the unusual connection between a Black teenager and an aging Jewish vaudevillian through comedy and music.

Review: GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES at Shakespeare & Company
Glenn Barrett, Kristen Moriarty, and Logan Slater
Photo by Oskar Ahlstrom

The piece was originally written in 1992, however, Smith has reworked the script. GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES is being presented in its current form for the first time at Shakespeare & Company. "The idea of revisiting a play I wrote 30 years ago was absolutely terrifying," said Smith. "My first take was thinking I can't rewrite this because I am such a different person than I was back then. But after a while, I started thinking, 'why don't I embrace who I am today, and look at the play from an objective point of view?"

Review: GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES at Shakespeare & Company
Glenn Barrett and Kristen Moriarty
Photo by Oskar Ahlstrom.

A Professor of Theatre at Ohio University, Smith said he began to treat himself like his own pupil. "I've worked with a number of young writers, so I gave myself the notes I would give to a young writer. The result is something I'm delighted with - and what I consider a new play." Director, Golden agreed, calling the production "more of an ensemble piece." The cast features Glenn Barrett as Pompey, Kristen Moriarty as Marsha, Kevin G. Coleman as Ollie, and Logan Slater as Jet. All of whom deliver quality performances.

Review: GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES at Shakespeare & Company
Logan Slater and Glenn Barrett
Photo by Oskar Ahlstrom

According to Smith: "There is more reflection on the psyche, and more examination of how the political world can affect how we connect with others,". "In the background is the political reality of that time, but purposefully foregrounded are the smaller scale experiences of four people." The juxtaposition of the two main characters and their finding common ground is sweet, tender, and seemingly quite relevant given current social conditions. The set is handsome, and its dressing is particular interesting. While the content of the piece is unlikely to rock your world or provide the basis for deep thought-provoking conversation, GOLDEN LEAF RAGTIME BLUES does provide an hour and 20 minutes of pleasant entertainment free of politics, angst and the chance to sit back and relax, and focus on something completely different for a bit which most of us can use and appreciate these days.

Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues continues at Shakespeare & Company's Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre through October 30.


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