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SAFE HOUSE presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Nov. 15. Click here for more information on the production.
A dramatic tale of two brothers takes over the Marx Theatre as the second show of the season. The play boasts a solid ensemble that brings this dark play to life.
For me, the first act did struggle a bit in both story and pacing. It contains much exposition to set up the show, and at times it seems to meander a bit, providing information in smaller portions on multiple fronts. The pacing does gain a nice momentum near the end of the act. In contrast, the second act begins and progresses much strongr. When the audience learns to what extreme brother Addison (LeRoy McClain) will go to attain his dream, it’s a proverbial gut-punch that sends an audible shock through the audience.
Favorite moments include: Shannon Dorsey as escaped slave Roxie, sharing her story of why she became a runaway; Stephanie Berry as the brothers’ aunt, Dorcas, as she pleads with Deputy Bracken (Wilbur Edwin Henry) to help her nephew; the good-byes in the shed, and the final scene with brothers Addison and Frank (Shane Taylor) at the river.
One issue for me is that when Frank becomes upset and begins yell/taking rather fast, I lost much of what was being said. The scene with Bracken and Dorcas mentioned above, was staged heavily to audience right, that those of us audience left were unable to see the actors faces for a bit too long.
The set by Tony Cisek works well and is visually interesting. The slated walls allow the audience to see through to the outside of the house, including the tall trees standing upstage. The wood floor’s pattern, transitioning from house to river, was nicely done. The latter was enhanced by Michael Gilliam’s lighting to turn it into a flowing river late in the play. I was a bit confused by the shoes and boots hanging above the set, until their presence was explained late into the play.
SAFE HOUSE is an impactful and heart-breaking tale of the oppression of slavery from the viewpoint of two brothers, who are free people of color, with opposing ideologies.
My rating: 4.0 out of 5
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