RED VELVET at STNJ is Brilliant and Important Theatre
"We don't have the ease of following in footsteps."
-by Ira Aldridge in Red Velvet
Red Velvet by the award-winning British Playwright, Lolita Chakrabarti is now being performed at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) through September 25th. This important theatrical piece portrays the effect of racial prejudice on an actor's career. The show is directed to the point of perfection by the theatre's Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte and features a stellar cast. This is a production that must be seen.
Red Velvet begins and ends in a dressing room at a theatre in Lodz, Poland in 1867 where African-American actor, Ira Aldridge is performing on tour. But most of this poignant, real-life story is set in the time when Aldridge was the first black man to appear as Othello in 1833 at Theatre Royal Covent Garden in London. There, he assumed the lead role when the famous thespian, Edmund Kean collapsed onstage during a performance. Aldridge's passionate performance as Othello brings audiences to their feet but he faces the bigotry of many, including some of his fellow cast members and influential theatre critics.
Red Velvet is a fascinating account with compelling scenes that lend a full perspective to the story. The many interesting characters include Pierre Laporte, the theatre manager at Royal Covent Garden; Ellen Tree who plays Desdemona in Othello; Margaret Aldridge, Ira's wife and Charles Kean, Edmund Kean's son.
The stellar cast of Red Velvet brings the story to life with some of the finest acting you will see on a New Jersey stage. Lindsay Smiling leads the cast as Ira Aldridge; David Foubert as Pierre Laporte; Sofia Jean Gomez as Halina Wozniak/Margaret Aldridge; Shannon Harris as Connie; John Little as Terence/Bernard Warde; David Andrew Macdonald as Charles Kean; Victoria Mack as Ellen Tree; Savannah DesOrmeaux as Berry Lowell and Garrett Lawson as Henry Forrester/Casimir.
The finest visual elements are brought to the Madison stage by the Artistic Staff that includes set design by Bethanie Wampol; lighting design by Burke Wilmore and costume design by Paul Canada. Denise Cardarelli is the Production Stage Manager.
Red Velvet is a close-up view of the boundaries that were placed on an actor because the curse of racial prejudice, a curse that is still present in society. See this potent, brilliantly produced show. It is sure to make a lasting impression on metro area audiences.
Red Velvet will be onstage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey through September 25th. The performance runs approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is located at 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Tickets and subscriptions can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973.408.5600 or by visiting www.shakespearenj.org.
Photo Credit: Jerry Dalia