The motivation of Price, a hard-nosed man of business, is not difficult to see, but the terrible, disheartening emotional change he undergoes is horribly recognizable, for it is what happens to human beings when they behave inhumanely. Brown's motivation, on the other hand, is less obvious. Foolhardiness is too easy; so is styling it an existentialist gratuitous act. The play also discusses why actors act; who protects, even owns, a cultural heritage; how the actor's art and real life merge and conflict. In short, The Negro Company Presents Richard III is meaty, if occasionally talky, stuff.
In addition to Himes and Joplin, director Wayne Salomon's remarkably strong cast includes Corey E. Jones, intense and compelling as James Hewlett, the Negro Company's leading man; Cherita A. Armstrong as Ann Johnson, who cannot separate her stage character from her real emotional life; Joy C. Hooper as Sarah, a witty, abrasive member of the company; and Akin Babatunde as the mysterious Papa Shakespeare. Joe Hitti, as a New York City constable all too ready to do Price's bidding, rounds out the troupe. Salomon sets a nice quick pace, and his insights bring an air of clarity to sections of the play that might otherwise appear murky. Mark Putman is responsible for the spare, elegant set; Joseph W. Clapper for lighting it so well. Cynthia Winstead's costumes for the women are quite serviceable, the men's somewhat unconvincing.
Continues through May 14.
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