Review: WEDDING BAND At The Stratford Festival is A Beautifully Heartbreaking Story about Love and Dignity

Antonette Rudder is excellent in this powerful play by Alice Childress.

By: Sep. 14, 2023
Review: WEDDING BAND At The Stratford Festival is A Beautifully Heartbreaking Story about Love and Dignity

This season, the Stratford Festival is certainly not shying away from material that addresses pandemics – fictional or historical. Director Sam White’s production of Alice Childress’ WEDDING BAND takes place during WWI when many were falling ill and dying from the influenza virus. It is the story of interracial couple Julia Augustine (Antonette Rudder) and Herman (Cyrus Lane) who are forced to contend with influenza when Herman falls ill, and who have already been contending with another pandemic – that of racism and white supremacy that is arguable even more rampant. This beautiful and heartbreaking play allows us to witness how Julia as a Black Woman, and Julia and Herman as a couple reckon with both external and internal forces that challenge their faith in their relationship and lead them to come to terms with what “dignity” means to them.

Antonette Rudder is excellent as protagonist Julia Augustine. It is heartbreaking to see her be so slow to open up to her new neighbours – only for them to initially react to the revelation of her interracial relationship in the same way that others in her past have clearly reacted. Her chemistry with Cyrus Lane’s Herman is critical to the story and the two of them are a wonderful pair – from their light, loving and playful private moments to the hard, and heartbreaking moments when they can no longer avoid the social implications and opinions of their courtship – The two of them are magical.

The entire cast is excellent. We quickly meet the members of the community that Julia and Herman have moved to, and as Julia begins to open up to her neighbours, their own layers begin to be peeled back as well. We learn of the losses that Lula Green (Joella Chrichton) has endured, and the secret that Mattie (Ijeoma Emesowum) is living with.

Lucy Peacock and Maev Beaty portray Herman's mother and sister. Neither character is particularly likeable - the sister making slightly more of an effort to interact with Julia while the mother wastes no time putting her racism and hypocrisy on full display. Both performers do well to be physical representations of the attitudes that Julia and Herman are up against.

A standout is Micah Woods in his nuanced portrayal of Julia's youthful neighbour Nelson Green. As a young Black man in the south during the first world war, Nelson is entering into manhood with the prospect of going off to war and the hope that in fighting for his country he will be rewarded with more respect and opportunity when he returns home. He is an adopted child – perhaps feeling like a replacement for the son his mother lost. Throughout the course of the play, we witness Nelson being turned down on a few occasions – first by Julia Augustine and then later we learn that he has proposed to his girlfriend and she has declined. The rejection, racism, abandonment, imposter syndrome, and fear that this man holds just beneath the surface will occasionally seep through in the form of an impulsive decision or a moment of anger -as it would for anyone – but he, as a Black man, is in a position where any wrong move could lead to dire consequences for himself and those he loves.

The transitions from inside to outside are smoothly done with minimal set change. Lighting Design by Kathy A. Perkins, and Set Design by Richard H. Morris, along with Sam White's direction, really shine in these moments. It works very well on the Tom Patterson Theatre stage.

The word "dignity" is uttered multiple times throughout the play as Julia and Herman grapple with what that means to them and how to achieve it. This leads to a powerful mixture of emotion in the play's final moments when the spirits of these characters achieve their goals while one's body falls short. This is a stunning piece of theatre that does not sugar coat anything and that is performed superbly ball all involved.

WEDDING BAND continues in Repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until October 1st.

Photo Credit: Bre’Ann White


Review: SIX THE MUSICAL at Royal Alexandra Theatre Photo
Review: SIX THE MUSICAL at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. If you happened to fall into the (mis)fortune of being married to one of England’s most notorious kings, your fate was sealed. Six The Musical, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, takes the tragic fates of Henry VIII’s six wives and weaves them into a lively and flirty musical romp.

SIX THE MUSICAL Extends in Toronto Until February 11, 2024 Photo
SIX THE MUSICAL Extends in Toronto Until February 11, 2024

The Canadian production of SIX The Musical will extend its run until February 11, 2024. Get more event and ticket information here!

COC and NAC Commission EMPIRE OF WILD From Ian Cusson and Cherie Dimaline Photo
COC and NAC Commission EMPIRE OF WILD From Ian Cusson and Cherie Dimaline

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) and National Arts Centre (NAC) have officially co-commissioned Empire of Wild, an imaginative and enthralling new mainstage opera from composer Ian Cusson and librettist Cherie Dimaline that centres the Georgian Bay Métis community at the heart of its story. Learn more about the opera here!

DanceWorks Performs SaMel Tanzs CHAMPIONESS in November Photo
DanceWorks Performs SaMel Tanz's CHAMPIONESS in November

DanceWorks has announced the world premiere of SaMel Tanz’s CHAMPIONESS, a captivating performance that combines boxing, contemporary, street, and Latin dance to explore notions of identity and mental health.


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