Review: THE XIXTH (THE NINETEENTH) at The Old Globe Goes For the Gold

Playing through April 23rd at The Old Globe

By: Mar. 28, 2023
Review: THE XIXTH (THE NINETEENTH) at The Old Globe Goes For the Gold
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The Old Globe Theatre is going for the gold with their World Premier THE XIXTH (The 19th). The play follows the run-up to, during, and after the Olympic medal-winning sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium and raised their black-gloved fists in the air at the 1968 Olympic Games. The show is funny, and thought-provoking, and shows that sadly, the issues of protesting systematic racism and looking for freedom and equality are still as relevant now as it was then. THE XIXTH is playing at The Old Globe through April 23rd.

This new play by Kemp Powers imagines the conversations and the events that led to this Olympic moment, and how that impacted the rest of their lives. In reference to the 19th Olympics where they won their medals, this one-act play is quick moving, with plenty of heart and humor. It opens when they are older, and arrive at a funeral for their friend and competitor Peter Norman who won the silver medal in that race.

Tommie Smith (Korye Jackson) and John Carlos (Biko Eisen-Martin) couldn't be more different, but they do have one thing in common- they're both fast and love to win. When they first meet on the college track they discuss their backgrounds and their classes, and it is clear that John Carlos is a student of educator and civil rights activist Harry Edwards and is more of the fiery agitator, not afraid to make some noise. Tommie is less inclined to that type of action but is open to learning.

From there the time periods shift, showing how there was a constant back and forth leading right up to the race between Smith and Carlos on what actions to take and how. Soon they are introduced to the Australian runner Pete (Patrick Marron Ball) who broke the world record in his qualifying race to get him to the Olympics and is a credible threat for the gold. The race itself is inventively staged and allows a glimpse into the formative events that shaped these men right up to the moment of the race.

Jackson brings sweetness to Tommie, who struggles with his inner conflicts as he tries to process all the emotions and outcomes of standing on the podium. Eisen-Martin's John Carlos is full of flash and fire as the bigger personality but struggles with the longstanding ramifications. Ball as Pete is winning and likable and you get a good idea of why he chose to wear the button in support on the podium.

Review: THE XIXTH (THE NINETEENTH) at The Old Globe Goes For the Gold
Korey Jackson as Tommie and Michael Early as Jesse Owens in THE XIXTH (the Nineteenth)
(Courtesy of Rich Soublet II)

Michael Early is excellent as Jesse Owens, who tries to gently guide the young men before the event but is rudely rebuffed. Mark Pinter is a credible villain as the racist Avery Brundage, chief of the International Olympic Committee. Christian Coulson and Kimberly Scott round out the cast as Pete's Coach Neville, and Tommie's mother Dora.

Directed By Carl Cofield the play is well-paced and balances the more dramatic and emotional moments with humor to create an engaging, entertaining, and educational piece. He also makes excellent use of a turntable track by set designer Riw Rakkulchon, along with the lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, sound design by David R. Molina, and costumes by Mika Eubanks.

While the show is a created historical fiction on how these conversations and events may have been, it is a fact that the fallout afterward impacted every aspect of their lives. Threats and protests affected the lives, mental health, and employment opportunities of all three who stood on the podium that day. Sadly, we cannot say that the reaction would have been much different if this had happened today.

THE XIXTH is an excellent production that brings the stories of these events back into focus, so that everyone remembers not just the moment on the podium, but also the price they paid after so that it will not be forgotten.

How To Get Tickets

The XIXth (The Nineteenth) is playing at The Old Globe through April 23rd. For ticket and showtime information go to www.theoldglobe.org

Photo Credit: Patrick Marron Ball as Pete (left), Biko Eisen-Martin as John Carlos and Korey Jackson as Tommie in The XIXth (The Nineteenth) (Courtesy of Rich Soublet II)




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