At the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, tucked between a baseball diamond and a playground, the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s fast-paced swashbuckling retelling of The Three Musketeer’s, brings a little Paris to Harlem, but not without taking a little Harlem to Paris.
As the sun sets in the trees somewhere behind the stage, you’ll take in a dabbing Porthos (Reynaldo Piniella), an ensemble of dancers from the Elisa Monte company, and Shayshahn “PhearNone” MacPherson on the Aurora violin, leaving one to wonder “Are we in Harlem or in France?”
In Catherine Bush’s adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas classic under Jenny Bennett’s direction, a female D’Artagnan (Miriam Hyman; The Piano Lesson ) moves from the country in hopes of joining the King’s musketeers. Before doing so of course, she must first sword-fight with almost everyone, fall in love with her landlord’s daughter (Ava McCoy), and figure out what it means to be “all for one and one for all.” It’s a tale about the three musketeers that’s less about the classic trio, and more about D’Artagnan the musketeer wannabe who can’t seem to catch a break.
Amidst a simple yet impressive set, Hyman shows us a D’Artagnan as we’ve never seen her before, simply because we haven’t seen her before. As Bennett imagined it, D’Artagnan doesn’t need to man up to be a musketeer but woman up, and woman up Hyman does. With her dred-loc bob and braid clips Hyman bounds around the stage with her sword at the ready as if she were already in the King’s service. “If I wanted to kill you,” she nonchalantly tells an injured Athos (Emmanuel Brown; Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark) “I’d use my sword.” Hyman’s understated confidence and surety ensure that you haven’t any doubt somebody’s dying at her hand before the 90 minutes is up.
The 90 minutes goes by very fast. So fast that if you paused to swat at the many flies that were also trying to enjoy the show, you might miss a connection between a flashback scene happening on the balcony stage left or when they cut to the present to reenact a story-within-a-story center stage. Even so, in a scene cut too short- literally stopped by a 5 second blackout- the three musketeers get into a bar brawl with flying mugs and chairs… in slow motion! Arguably the most visually arresting (albeit random) scene in the whole show.
Concerning design, when the sun finally disappeared and the front lighting hit the stage just right, the park faded into nonexistence and you could fully bask in CTH’s colorful production. Costume designer Rachel Dozier-Ezell’s mix of bold and bright patterns added a layer of captivation to the dancers dresses, the Queen of France’s (Afia Abusham) ball gown, and of course the musketeers. Consider this, could Athos, Porthos and Aramis (Brandon Carter) have made better entrances without velvet capes and striped pantalons paired with floral chemisiers, paisley vests and cheetah print boots? I think not!
If Paris, France represents a little respite amidst the chaos of a troubled world, with sword fights and cautionary tales of love gone wrong, then yes, CTH’s The Three Musketeers definitely brought a little France to Harlem.
Location: Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, Marcus Garvey Park. Free and open to the public.
Creative: By Catherine Bush, adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Jenny Bennett. Choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher. Fight Choreography by Emmanuel Brown.
Cast: Starring Miriam Hyman, Emmanuel Brown, Brandon Carter, Reynaldo Piniella, Michael Early, R.J. Foster, Anthony Merchant and Piera Van de Weil. Featuring Afia Abusham, Jeffrey Alkins, Jamar Brathwaite, Avon Haughton, Ava McCoy, Nedra Snipes, Jorge Sanchez, Jak Watson and The Elisa Monte Dance Company.
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Through July 30
Billy Porter Will Star In His New Play Remember To Live At Primary Stages
The Off-Broadway theatre company, Primary Stages, announced their 35th Anniversary season. Launching the lineup includes a new play by Tony Award-winning & Golden Globe-nominated actor Billy Porter entitled Remember To Live. That’s correct; The Pose(FX) star is a playwright. Beginning performances October 29th, Porter will also be starring in the piece.
Back in 2014 Porter’s While I Yet Live debuted at Primary Stages under the direction of Sheryl Kaller, who will also direct this future production set to premiere at the Cherry Lane Theatre.
Remember to Live is told from the perspective of an African-American gay filmmaker. The play centers on the stories of five gay men who all lived through the AIDS crisis and are now grappling with sex, intimacy, redemption, and love all with the indifference the current political climate.
Performances run October 29 through December 22. Additional casting to be announced at a later date.
Tori Sampson’s If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka Announces Cast
The world premiere of If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a MuhFucka written by Tori Sampson, who is making her New York City professional debut, and directed by Leah C. Gardiner has found its Off-Broadway cast.
The all-Black cast, choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly, begins performances February 15 and will run for a limited engagement until March 31, 2019, in the Mainstage Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036)
The cast features:
Rotimi Agbabiaka (Regional: Bootycandy; Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3) as Chorus,
Maechi Aharanwa (Off-Broadway: The Winter’s Tale, An Octoroon) as Ma,
Jason Bowen (Broadway: The Play That Goes Wrong. Off-Broadway: My Mañana Comes) as Dad,
Antoinette Crowe-Legacy (Regional: Seven Guitars, The Model American) as Massassi,
Ian Duff (Off-Broadway: Dutch Masters) as Kasim,
Nike Uche Kadri (Off-Broadway: School Girls…, The Death of the Last BlackMan ) as Akim,
Mirirai Sithole (Off-Broadway: School Girls…, The Homecoming Queen) as Adama, and
Phumzile Sitole (TV: Orange Is the New Black, Elementary, The Good Fight ) as Kaya.
Sampson says “I wanted to use a folktale in a contemporary way to interrogate why, for instance, Viola Davis isn’t ‘classically beautiful’ and why the country had such a hard time aesthetically with Michelle Obama. The first time I saw her I was awestruck; this was a beautiful black woman whose hair is like mine; her skin is like mine; and to see the attributes of her that I really admired, to see the media tear them down really troubles me. I wanted to examine the impact of colonization on Black beauty, and to ask what is Black beauty, in a way that speaks specifically to Black women.”
The creative team includes Louisa Thompson (Scenic Designer), Dede M. Ayite (Costume Designer), Matt Frey (Lighting Designer), and Ian Scot (Original Music and Sound Designer), Alyssa K. Howard (Production Stage Manager), and Noah Silva (Assistant Stage Manager).
“Black is beauty, Black is me, Black is what I want to be.” A line from a poem that Brittney, my elder sister, wrote in elementary school. My mother was so proud she insisted that all her daughters recite the phrase as we left home and entered the world.
– Tori Sampson from Playwright’s Perspective: If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka
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