Review: ANNE & EMMETT at Open Stage And Sankofa African American Theatre Company

Presented as part of the Good at Heart Festival through March 26th.

By: Mar. 18, 2023
Review: ANNE & EMMETT at Open Stage And Sankofa African American Theatre Company
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Janet Langhart Cohen's Anne & Emmett is a powerful, emotional, thought-provoking play that brings together two young people whose lives were shaped by and cut short by hatred-Anne Frank and Emmett Till. The audience is invited to witness a conversation between these two figures that takes place in Memory. Memory and remembering are important themes in the piece. It emphasizes the truth that only by remembering the atrocities that have taken place (and continue to take place) as a result of the hatred of those who are different, can we learn from them and take action to dismantle the structures built on that hatred to create a more just and compassionate world. Part of the Good at Heart Festival, Open Stage and Sankofa African American Theatre Company present Anne & Emmett through March 26th.

Under the direction of Stuart Landon, the cast features Josh Dorsheimer, David Richwine, Joellen Terranova, Sharia Benn, and Keel Warner. As the play opens, the audience is given a glimpse into the daily lives of Emmett and Anne, as well as Emmett's mother Mamie and Anne's father Otto. These scenes highlight the family relationships and the events leading up to the deaths of the teens. As these scenes fade away, Anne and Emmett meet one another in Memory, where they discover one another's histories and the truth behind what they each experienced, noting both differences and, more importantly, similarities in the ways in which hate shaped their lives and caused their deaths. Their stories are interspersed with deeply philosophical debates about good and evil, hope and despair, God and justice.

Each actor in this production brings passion, commitment, and authenticity to the stage. As they interact with one another, their character's stories come to life in a visceral way. While the entire performance is utterly engaging, the final scenes are perhaps the most powerful. Anne (portrayed by Terranova) and Emmett (portrayed by Warner) tell one another about their deaths while Otto (portrayed by Richwine) and Mamie (portrayed by Benn) express their reactions to the deaths of their children. This is also when the audience meets J.W. Milam, one of the men responsible for Emmett's death, played by Dorsheimer. The raw emotions expressed by the actors in these scenes are heart-breaking and haunting, especially as Benn and Richwine light candles reminding us that Anne and Emmett's lives ended at ages 16 and 14.

Anne & Emmett serves as a powerful reminder that there is still work to be done in our world when it comes to combating hatred. As playwright Janet Langhart Cohen comments in her playwright's note at www.anneandemmett.com, "Their cry and my goal is a call to action to: Stop the Hate! Tikkun Olam! We are not doomed to repeat the past if we listen to their stories. We can repair the world." To experience this profound play masterfully performed by a dedicated and talented cast, visit www.openstagehbg.com and www.sankofatheatrehbg.com.




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