Friday, June 24, 2022

Red Velvet Theatre Review

Amari Cheatom stars in Red Velvet (Teresa Castracane Photography)

"It's Very Othello"

Ira (Amari Cheatom, in a dazzling turn) declares, "That's the beauty of Shakespeare. He unnerves you." Jade King Carroll's Red Velvet captures that sensation (and so much more) in her STC directorial debut, now playing at the Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh, through July 17th. Lolita Charkrabarti's play (which debuted only 10 years ago) tells the story of the first African-American actor to play Shakespeare's Othello. The aforementioned Cheatom plays that role (to a tee) with the finest performance I've seen all season. His character asks for vigilance and a "taste of home," but it's his confidence that resonates throughout, a sheer will to educate and perform that earns kudos such as, "Your life is filled with spectacular occasion." Spectacular indeed.

202 Words or Less

The play tackles change, politics and race with equal aplomb, including timely references to the Russo-Ukrainian War, as well as light-hearted moments, such as Ira's "Have you read the play?" in response to his director's appeal for kid-gloves. You-Shin Chen's set design is simple yet sophisticated, making great use of the color red (of course) and our press night performance even managed to survive (nay, flourish in) a last minute replacement for a key performer (brava Kimberly Gilbert.)

Red Velvet runs two hours, 40-minutes with a 15-minute intermission, now through Sunday, July 17th at the Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh (450 7th Street, NW.) Tickets cost $35-$112, and are available for purchase online or by calling (202) 547-1122.