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Raven Theatre’s Daring New Play Tackles Sensitive Racial Themes In 19th Century London

red-velvet-1If the shortest connection between two points is a straight line, then consider the complexities that can ensue if more than two well-drawn points are allowed to exist on the same stage, at the same time.

That, put simply, is the concise gift that Lolita Chakrabarti’s “Red Velvet,” Raven Theatre’s latest play, presents to its audience. There are many points. And it can be difficult to know where, exactly, to draw the line between them all — or even to know how boldly to display it.

When African-American actor Ira Aldridge moves to England in 1833, he becomes the first black actor to perform the role of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello” on a London stage. In the background, outside the theater, public riots over the abolition of slavery are dominating the news, and the streets. Yet in this play within a play, where context builds upon context, and each interaction holds its own secret inconsistencies, it’s difficult not to turn and react to the sway.

Consider the reporter who manipulates in order to honestly reveal, because, she says, there’s no other way. Consider the older actor who, displaced to smaller, obscure stages on the larger European continent, can’t shake the ghost of his former self, and what happened on that London stage. Consider the female actor who endures the physical extremes of art, and then feels she needs to hide how it really makes her feel, because passion really can sometimes go too far.

Aldridge is played by Brandon Greenhouse. Also in the cast are Anna Dauzvardis, Tim Martin, Sophia Menendian, and Scott Olson.

Directed by Michael Menendian, “Red Velvet” continues through Nov. 27. Performances take place Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. There will not be a performance on Nov. 24.

The Raven Theater is located at 6157 N. Clark St. Tickets are $46 at the door, $43 if purchased online.

For more information, visit www.raventheatre.com, or call 773-338-2177.


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