Thursday, September 13, 2012

Theater Review - Lady Patriot - written and Directed by Ted Lange - reviewed by Natasha Dixon

What happens when you mix amazing acting, with amazing writing on a backdrop of American History? You get Lady Patriot, a historical play set in the 1860’s, during a time of American distress. This production takes on the task of entertaining while educating and succeeds.

I saw the world premiere of Lady Patriot opening weekend at The Hudson Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. This brilliant play is about a free slave who steps back into slavery and doubles as a secret agent for the Union army during the Civil War.

“The History of black slaves during the Civil War in America is generally underground and relatively obscure. A history teacher once told me that history is written by victors. Lady Patriot, based on historical fact, is one of history’s untold stories.” Ted Lange (Playwright, Director)

During the show I pretty much enjoyed the performances of all the cast, which is rare for me.  There always seems to be a weak link, even in casts of amazing actors, but with Lady Patriot this was not the case. This ensemble was cast perfectly and operated like a well oiled machine, keeping me on the edge of my seat. The cast included:  Gordon Goodman (Jefferson Davis), Anne Johstonbrowne (Varina Davis), Ted Lange (Old Robert), Paul Messinger (Judah P. Benjamin), Chrystee Pharris (Mary Bowser), Robert Pine (Mr. Sydell), and Connie Ventress (Elizabeth Van Lew). Additional cast: Zuri Alexander (Mary Bowser), Lou Beatty Jr. (Old Robert), and Greg Depetro (Jefferson Davis Understudy). They didn’t pull any punches when casting this play. Their training ranges from bachelors degrees and PhDs to classically trained and series regulars on TV.

Anne’s performance was impressive. You could see her thoughts without her saying a word. Her character was not the most lovable, but she gave you a better understanding of her motives. The multi-dimensions Chrystee brought to the character was a breathe of fresh air. Her character was a spy, yet there was a level of innocence that lured you in. Connie gave a jovial performance never indicating she was a spy. She had great chemistry with her counterparts. Paul’s performance made you have compassion for his character. Gordan humanized Jefferson Davis, that made you look at history from a different perspective. Although he had a smaller role, Robert’s performance packed a powerful punch. Ted Lange (Playwright, Director) stepped in as Old Robert. The relationship he had with each character was so distinct you never knew what to expect. His acting was just as impressive as his writing.

What was impressive about the writing was that the characters were not one dimensional. There was nothing black and white about any of these characters.  They were shades of grey allowing the audience to enjoy the play rather than judge the characters. Ted blended historical facts in such a personal way I wasn’t sitting in the audience offended by this story of slavery. When you go see the show be prepared to hear the N word. By act one, scene three I lost count of how many times the word was used.  Not just because it was used so many times, but because it was eloquently incorporated into the script.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Lady Patriot. I’m sure I will make it out to at least one more show before they close, October 14th. You can see the play Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.plays411/