Review: Wedding Band (The Artistic Home)

| November 25, 2017

Raina Lynn and Scott Westerman star as Julia and Herman in Wedding Band, Artistic Home 4             

         

Wedding Band    
   
Written by Alice Childress
The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map)
thru Dec 17  |  tix: $28-$32  |  more info    
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Heart wrenching story of love in the face of bigotry

  

Raina Lynn and Scott Westerman star in Wedding Band, Artistic Home

    
The Artistic Home presents
    
Wedding Band:
      A Love/Hate Story in Black and White

  
Review by Duane Barnes

The theater is small, thus the action and the words, oh yes the words, are close. It holds true for emotions as well, love, hate, despair, insolence, degradation, fear, release. The time is summer, 1918. World War I, the Great War, is still raging, but the end is near. A race war is occurring as well but to this day there seems to be no end in sight. The setting is South Carolina in a small city by the sea. The story is played out in a close-knit “Colored” community where poor is the norm and folks do what they need to do to keep heads above water, their bodies safe.

Raina Lynn and Scott Westerman star as Julia and Herman in Wedding Band, Artistic Home 5The tale being told is of a love that has been 10 years in the making, but seems to have no chance of ever being consummated because the woman, Julia Augustine (Raina Lynn), is a “colored” seamstress, her lover, Herman (Scott Westerman), a white baker. They pine for marriage, impossible as it may be –“if only we can go up north, New York City, say, we could be married there”. Romeo and Juliet in Black and White. But Herman cannot leave for New York, or anywhere, until a family debt is paid, his chances for doing that are slim to none. He finally presents a wedding band to her, a sign of hope for him, not so for the more practical Juliet.

There is other pain to be borne. Nelson Green (Kevin Patterson) is a “colored” doughboy, serving his country, home on leave, but is told by the white townspeople not to wear his uniform in town and “show off”. His response is to breathe hate for those whites who would put him down. His mother, Lula (Lisa McConnell), knowing the world they live in, is consumed with fear for his life. Mattie (Myesha-Tiara), a mother and nanny for two girls, Teeta (Maya Hook) and Princess (Madison Murphy), is just angry – angry at her station in life, angry from lack of money, angry and suspicious of everything. The last member of this community is Fanny Johnson (Susan Anderson) who stands a little higher than her neighbors because “she’s the only ‘colored’ person in town whose been allowed to own property”, a collection of small, unpainted houses. For that reason she feels a cut above her tenants. But she, too, feels the constraints of her race, knows the rules of her time and acts subservient when white folk are near. In sharp contrast, we meet the Bellman (Reid Coker), a purveyor of odds and ends, dirty and unkempt. But he is white and able to lord it over the other members of this small community, doing so with delight, impunity and threats.

Kevin Patterson, Raina Lynn, Lisa McConnell and Myesha-Tiara star in Wedding Band, Artistic Home Raina Lynn stars as Julia in Wedding Band, Artistic Home Raina Lynn, Susan P. Anderson and Myesha-Tiara star in Wedding Band, Artistic Home Maya Hooks and Myesha Tiara star as Teeta and Mattie in Wedding Band, Artistic Home Raina Lynn, Scott Westerman, Donna McGough and Laura Coleman star in Wedding BandLisa McConnell, Susan P. Anderson and Myesha-Tiara star in Wedding Band, Artistic Home

And then there are the upper class white folk, Herman’s sister, Annabelle (Laura Coleman) and his mother (Donna McGough), who’s so distanced from this level of existence she is given no name, simply Herman’s mother. An imposing woman of her time and place, she not only knows the rules, she is the rules. Everyone gives her their subservience with their “no ma’am” and “yes ma’am” but even she, now separated from her son because of those rules, shows a mother’s despair in her stiff and formal way. Sister Annabelle is trapped, too, because until her brother marries, she must wait her turn for happiness. There are no winners here.

This play, beautifully written and constructed by Alice Childress in 1962, had its difficulties finding a theater for staging such a drama in the 60’s, and further difficulty presenting it on TV as many outlets refused to show it, too controversial for its time. The tale of racism has a long history and continues through the year 2017 and beyond.

The cast is marvelous and has done a superb job of employing the dialect of the time and place, lending an authentic flavor to the drama. Director Cecilie Keenan has done an exemplary job in guiding her ensemble to take on their roles with authority in keeping with their character. In addition, the cast’s interplay with each other is deftly done. The audience is kept thoroughly involved as the action and tension continue to build. A powerful ending brings the drama to a close. Who will suffer and how?

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

Wedding Band continues through December 17th at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map), with performances Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $28-$32, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through OvationTix.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at TheArtisticHome.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Raina Lynn, Madison Murphy, Reid Coker and Maya Hooks star in Wedding Band, Artistic Home

Photos by Joe Mazza 


  

artists

cast

Raina Lynn (Julia), Scott Westerman (Herman), Reid Coker (Bell Man), Laura Coleman (Annabelle), Susan P. Anderson (Fanny), Maya Hooks (Teeta), Lisa McConnell (Lula), Donna McGough (Herman’s mother), Madison Murphy (Princess), Myesha-Tiara (Mattie), Kevin Patterson (Nelson). 

behind the scenes

Cecilie Keenan (director), Steven Cooper (asst. director), Zach Wagner (costume design), E.J. Jackson (lighting design), Kevin Rolfs (scenic design), Zack Berinstein (sound design) Joseph Cerqua (sound design, original music), Madelein Lyons (stage manager), Christian Helem (asst. stage manager), Joe Mazza (photos) 

Raina Lynn and Scott Westerman star as Julia and Herman in Wedding Band, Artistic Home 3

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Artistic Home, Drama, Duane Barnes

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