Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Hounded by thugs

Old Globe’s Red Velvet has one strong scene

Red Velvet: As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics.
Red Velvet: As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics.

Lolita Chakrabarti wrote a mediocre play about an important subject. The Old Globe Theatre’s puzzling, under-rehearsed opening night was no help.

There are great reasons why our Calvin Manson named his company the Ira Aldridge Players. Aldridge (1807–1867) was one of history’s finest actors. Though born in America, he rarely performed in his homeland. Shackled by racist attitudes and hounded by thugs, the proud African-American left for Liverpool in 1824. The move made sense because England had abolished slavery, and Parliament was considering abolition in the colonies.

In 1831 he changed his stage name to F. W. Keene. The switch paid tribute to Edmund Kean, the legendary tragedian (1787–1833). Aldridge also hoped the link would generate name recognition at the box office.

Aldridge loved Shakespeare so much he named his horse Shylock. He was famous for his Shakespearean roles and for addressing the post-curtain audience with an emphatic speech about the horrors of slavery.

The name change may have a deeper link. A legend persists that Aldridge was Kean’s servant on his first American tour, and that Kean took him to London and nurtured his love of theater.

Acclaimed in almost every European capital, Aldridge felt he lacked the ultimate triumph: to perform at Covent Garden’s Theatre Royale, Drury Lane — the center of the theatrical world at the time and home base of the renowned Kean.

In the late-1820s, Kean’s powers began to decline. Often called “untameably wild,” he resorted to “stimulants” to see him through. In March 1833, while playing Othello in blackface at the Theatre Royale, Kean collapsed in Act Three, scene three. He shouted to his son playing Iago, “Oh God, I am dying. Speak to them, Charles,” and fell into his son’s arms. He died May 15.

Red Velvet begins in 1867. As an infirm Aldridge prepares to play King Lear — in whiteface — a Polish journalist interviews him. They go back to 1833 when Aldridge’s dream came true. He took Kean’s place as Othello. The theater was famous for never cancelling a performance — i.e., for never “going dark.” When the company manager wants to substitute Aldridge for the ailing Kean, the expression acquires an ocean-wide irony. Aldridge went on. But in the eyes of allegedly open-minded Londoners and critics, he failed. A white man must play the Moor, wrote The Spectator: “An African is no more qualified to play Othello than a fat man is to play Falstaff.”

Red Velvet

Red Velvet has one strong scene. Kean is out. The show must go on tonight. Told during a rehearsal that a black man will play the Moor, the cast tries to stifle reactions, including Charles Kean’s semi-veiled racism. When Aldridge arrives, he’s a game-changer. His more realistic acting style goes against the taffy-stretched emoting of the day. He tries to teach a more realistic technique. He’s still mannered, as when he greets Desdemona by flexing his knees like a Samurai warrior and extending his arm like a spear. He’s just less exaggerated than Kean’s troupe; they play front and gesture like windmills.

The scene’s funny and instructive. As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics, since there’s an anti-slavery protest down the street. Other scenes, however, wouldn’t pass Playwrighting 1A. The conclusion’s a long, long monologue. While Aldridge applies greasepaint, the reporter kvetches. In the penultimate scene, when the company manager, Pierre LaPorte, must dismiss Aldridge, they have a near endless dialogue and conclude with a fight. It’s supposed to recall Othello and Desdemona but is so stagey and by-the-numbers you’d think we were back at the Royale in 1833 where stage fights tried mightily not to injure Kean.

That tame combat and the apparently under-rehearsed performances are on the Globe production, not the play. Instead of enhancing the script’s few strengths, the weaknesses were all the more glaring.

Red Velvet has characters from Poland, France, Jamaica, England, and America. Almost every accent was either wrong or overindulged. Example: in the final scene the reporter (Amelia Pedlow) does a tirade about her sorry plight in an often incomprehensible Polish accent. Sean Dugan’s Pierre LaPorte spoke Language Lab French, etc.

Another puzzle: throughout Act One, the cast shouted, with the leads jack-hammering hard stresses. In Act Two, everyone toned down. Was this a then vs. now styles “concept”? Or did someone rush into the dressing room at intermission and urge the actors to play just to the house, not Coronado Island?

Though lit too dimly, Jason Sherwood’s coffee brown, grained-wood set solves potential problems. An ancient arch, ornate on one side, blank on the other, revolves from backstage to the foot-lit front, and from 1867 to 1833. The rest of the Globe production could use his inventiveness.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Red Velvet, by Lolita Chakrabarti

Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

Directed by Stafford Arima; cast: Amanda Pedlow, Michael Aurelio, Mark Pinter, Albert Jones, Monique Gaffney, John Lavelle, Allison Mack, Sean Dugan; scenic design, Jason Sherwood, costumes, David Israel Reynoso, lighting, Jason Lyons, sound, Jonathan Deans.

Playing through April 30; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; theoldglobe.org

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

"We had to get canning quickly"

In response to covid, these small brewers now offer beer in cans for the first time
Red Velvet: As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics.
Red Velvet: As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics.

Lolita Chakrabarti wrote a mediocre play about an important subject. The Old Globe Theatre’s puzzling, under-rehearsed opening night was no help.

There are great reasons why our Calvin Manson named his company the Ira Aldridge Players. Aldridge (1807–1867) was one of history’s finest actors. Though born in America, he rarely performed in his homeland. Shackled by racist attitudes and hounded by thugs, the proud African-American left for Liverpool in 1824. The move made sense because England had abolished slavery, and Parliament was considering abolition in the colonies.

In 1831 he changed his stage name to F. W. Keene. The switch paid tribute to Edmund Kean, the legendary tragedian (1787–1833). Aldridge also hoped the link would generate name recognition at the box office.

Aldridge loved Shakespeare so much he named his horse Shylock. He was famous for his Shakespearean roles and for addressing the post-curtain audience with an emphatic speech about the horrors of slavery.

The name change may have a deeper link. A legend persists that Aldridge was Kean’s servant on his first American tour, and that Kean took him to London and nurtured his love of theater.

Acclaimed in almost every European capital, Aldridge felt he lacked the ultimate triumph: to perform at Covent Garden’s Theatre Royale, Drury Lane — the center of the theatrical world at the time and home base of the renowned Kean.

In the late-1820s, Kean’s powers began to decline. Often called “untameably wild,” he resorted to “stimulants” to see him through. In March 1833, while playing Othello in blackface at the Theatre Royale, Kean collapsed in Act Three, scene three. He shouted to his son playing Iago, “Oh God, I am dying. Speak to them, Charles,” and fell into his son’s arms. He died May 15.

Red Velvet begins in 1867. As an infirm Aldridge prepares to play King Lear — in whiteface — a Polish journalist interviews him. They go back to 1833 when Aldridge’s dream came true. He took Kean’s place as Othello. The theater was famous for never cancelling a performance — i.e., for never “going dark.” When the company manager wants to substitute Aldridge for the ailing Kean, the expression acquires an ocean-wide irony. Aldridge went on. But in the eyes of allegedly open-minded Londoners and critics, he failed. A white man must play the Moor, wrote The Spectator: “An African is no more qualified to play Othello than a fat man is to play Falstaff.”

Red Velvet

Red Velvet has one strong scene. Kean is out. The show must go on tonight. Told during a rehearsal that a black man will play the Moor, the cast tries to stifle reactions, including Charles Kean’s semi-veiled racism. When Aldridge arrives, he’s a game-changer. His more realistic acting style goes against the taffy-stretched emoting of the day. He tries to teach a more realistic technique. He’s still mannered, as when he greets Desdemona by flexing his knees like a Samurai warrior and extending his arm like a spear. He’s just less exaggerated than Kean’s troupe; they play front and gesture like windmills.

The scene’s funny and instructive. As styles clash, so do underlying attitudes about change: in acting, racial casting, and politics, since there’s an anti-slavery protest down the street. Other scenes, however, wouldn’t pass Playwrighting 1A. The conclusion’s a long, long monologue. While Aldridge applies greasepaint, the reporter kvetches. In the penultimate scene, when the company manager, Pierre LaPorte, must dismiss Aldridge, they have a near endless dialogue and conclude with a fight. It’s supposed to recall Othello and Desdemona but is so stagey and by-the-numbers you’d think we were back at the Royale in 1833 where stage fights tried mightily not to injure Kean.

That tame combat and the apparently under-rehearsed performances are on the Globe production, not the play. Instead of enhancing the script’s few strengths, the weaknesses were all the more glaring.

Red Velvet has characters from Poland, France, Jamaica, England, and America. Almost every accent was either wrong or overindulged. Example: in the final scene the reporter (Amelia Pedlow) does a tirade about her sorry plight in an often incomprehensible Polish accent. Sean Dugan’s Pierre LaPorte spoke Language Lab French, etc.

Another puzzle: throughout Act One, the cast shouted, with the leads jack-hammering hard stresses. In Act Two, everyone toned down. Was this a then vs. now styles “concept”? Or did someone rush into the dressing room at intermission and urge the actors to play just to the house, not Coronado Island?

Though lit too dimly, Jason Sherwood’s coffee brown, grained-wood set solves potential problems. An ancient arch, ornate on one side, blank on the other, revolves from backstage to the foot-lit front, and from 1867 to 1833. The rest of the Globe production could use his inventiveness.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Red Velvet, by Lolita Chakrabarti

Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

Directed by Stafford Arima; cast: Amanda Pedlow, Michael Aurelio, Mark Pinter, Albert Jones, Monique Gaffney, John Lavelle, Allison Mack, Sean Dugan; scenic design, Jason Sherwood, costumes, David Israel Reynoso, lighting, Jason Lyons, sound, Jonathan Deans.

Playing through April 30; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; theoldglobe.org

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Sanctified and glorified at Encanto Southern Baptist Church

Life is important on this side of death, but what really matters is eternity.
Next Article

Big Oak Ranch – another roadside attraction

The fines that MTS should pay
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close