BWW Review: BUTLER at 59E59 is Entertaining and Compelling
"We build the best case we can given the law."
Butler, the poignant Civil War comedic-drama has received rave reviews with performances across the country. Now, metropolitan area audiences can find out why. The play is making its New York City Premiere at 59E59 Theatres through August 28th. With an extraordinary, artful script by Richard Strand, meticulous direction by Joseph Discher and four excellent actors, the show is a wonderfully staged, unforgettable story of humanity. It is based on actual historical events that influenced the lives of over 10,000 slaves.
Butler is being presented by New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) by Executive Producer, Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas. The show was first produced in 2014 at the Company's theatre in Long Branch New Jersey. NJ Rep is renowned for launching top-notch World Premieres.
In Butler, it is the beginning of the Civil War and Benjamin Butler, a lawyer, was just promoted to the rank of Major General at Fort Monroe, a Union hold-out in the state of Virginia. Assisting Butler in his official duties at the fort is the conscientious West-Point graduate, Lieutenant Kelly. Butler finds himself in a difficult situation when Shepard Mallory, an escaped slave, seeks sanctuary at the fort. But the law of the land has not yet changed and escaped slaves are regarded as property and must be turned over to their "rightful owners." When the Confederate official, Major Carey arrives at Fort Monroe to take Mallory into custody, Major General Butler has the choice to follow the letter of the law or make a move that could affect the course of U.S. history.
The cast of Butler captures the spirited, intense, often humorous dialogue that makes this show completely captivating. Ames Anderson masters the role of Butler, a bombastic type, yet thoughtful and intelligent. John G. Williams is ideal as the defiant, young runaway slave, Shepard Mallory who is steadfast in his efforts to remain at the fort. Benjamin Sterling captures role of Lieutenant Kelly, who strives to be professional and maintain order in the face of explosive events. And it is David Sitler, as Major Cary who brings the story full circle with a great portrayal of the testy Confederate officer.
The Creative Team has done a wonderful job of bringing Butler to the 59E59 Theater stage with set design and props design by Jessica L. Parks; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty; lighting design by Jill Nagle; sound design by StEve Beckel and wig design by Leah J. Loukas. The Fight Director is Brad Lemons; Production Stage Manager is Rose Riccardi; Assistant Stage Manager is Rebecca Christian; General Manager is Leah Michalos; Technical Director is Brian Snyder; Wardrobe Supervisor is Autumn Cohen; Assistant to Director is Alexandra Scordato and Diego Daniel Pardo is the Dialect Coach.
This is the time for people to flock to see Butler. More than an entertaining show, it is a significant piece of theater and a timeless exploration of social conscience and individual responsibility. In the current climate of political discord, it is a refreshing look at how men of very different backgrounds find a sense of commonality.
BUTLER is on at the 59E59 Theatre for a limited engagement through Sunday, August 28. The production is two hours with one intermission. The performance schedule is Tuesday to Thursday at 7 PM; Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. Single tickets range from $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg