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Review: ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE at 59E59 Theaters is Important Theatre Wonderfully Presented

"Independence and self-reliance are the cornerstones of a happy life."


The New York City premiere of ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE is now on limited engagement at 59E59 Theaters through Sunday, August 14th. Beautifully written by Robin Rice, splendidly directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis and featuring an excellent cast, this is one to see. It is the moving true story of Alice Austen who was a fierce individualist.

ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE is a fine depiction of the life of Austen, a truly talented and courageous woman who was determined to upend social norms. She believed in "preserving the past" with her photos. It was an interest that started as a precocious youngster living with her family in Staten Island during the Victorian era, a family that fully expected her to marry and have children. The play is also an intimate look at her loving relationship with her partner Gertrude Tate. The two women were a vibrant couple who travelled the globe. Yet, Austen and Tate experienced a heartbreaking fall into poverty as a result of the great depression. And while Austen was forced to part with the family's home and treasures, her photos were miraculously saved at the Staten Island Historical Society. The show cleverly intertwines the characters of Sally Lally, the Historical Society receptionist, and Oliver Jensen, the publisher of "The Revolt of the American Woman" who diligently seeks Austen's photographs and Austen herself.

ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE portrays Austen's family, friends and suitors shedding real light on her life and times. Members of the play's troupe seamlessly assume multiple roles that add dynamism to the story. Jennifer Thalman Kepler is superb as Alice Austin. The cast includes Shannon Woolley Allison as Elizabeth Austen, Alice's Mother/Street Person/Poorhouse attendant; Ted Lesley as John Austen, Alice's Grandfather/James/Rogers Winthrop/City Official; Megan Adair as Minn Mueller, Alice's Aunt/Violet/Harry; Laura Ellis as Gertrude Tate/Julia; Trina Fischer as Sally Lally and Joseph Hatfield as Oliver Jensen.

ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE is an extraordinary testimony to Alice Austen's work, her lifestyle and her legacy. The intimate setting of 59E59 Theaters is ideal for the show's presentation. This is a very important, brilliantly conceived show that shares the ideals of one woman, ideals that have timeless significance.

ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE won the StageWrite Women's Theatre Initiative Award and received its world premiere in Louisville, produced by Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, they are reviving their production for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Alice Austen's birth.

ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE is on a limited engagement through Sunday, August 14. The performance schedule is Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 PM; Friday and Saturday at 8:30 PM; and Sunday at 3:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to

Photo Credit: Holly Stone

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