IDEATION, OLEANNA, MAN OF LA MANCHA, UNVEILED, STATEMENTS, LONELY PLANET, RIPE FRENZY, THE BAKELITE MASTERPIECE, TWO JEWS WALK INTO A WAR
Featuring nine productions, New Rep’s 2017-2018 season includes Ideation, a dark satirical comedy and Boston-area premiere; Oleanna, David Mamet’s groundbreaking drama, featuring Johnny Lee Davenport; Man of La Mancha, a revival of the Tony award-winning musical, featuring Maurice Emmanuel Parent; Unveiled, a one-woman show written and performed by Rohina Malik and co- produced with Stoneham Theatre; Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, and engaging political drama by Athol Fugard; Lonely Planet, an evocative social drama by Steven Dietz; Ripe Frenzy, a site-specific drama and Boston-area premiere; The Bakelite Masterpiece, a riveting historical drama and Boston-area premiere; and Two Jews Walk into a War…, a hilarious existential comedy featuring Jeremiah Kissel.
“The plays in our 2017-2018 season will showcase the remarkable resilience of the human spirit,” says Artistic Director Jim Petosa. “Theatre has the power to shed light in dark times, to illuminate and stimulate thought, and to provide a forum for us to come together as a community in conversation. It is our hope that these plays will inspire and engage as New Repertory Theatre continues to be a place where the vital ideas of our time can be discussed freely and openly.”
“Our 2016-2017 season was one of our most successful ever, and we owe a great amount of that success to our patrons,” says Managing Director Harriet Sheets. “We heard from so many audiences members throughout the year and
their passion and enthusiasm for our productions and mission was clear. It is because of that support that the Boston Globe recently called us ‘a potent force,’ and so we’re pleased to share another extraordinary lineup in 2017-2018.”
MainStage Theater & BlackBox Theater | Mosesian Center for the Arts 321 Arsenal Street | Watertown, MA 02472
New Rep Theater, Watertown
Through February 7th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Last night I got to spend the evening with former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. I and a number of other people got to see him in a small theatre in Watertown, MA. He told us about his life, his struggles, his battles. He was funny and touching. We felt the pain and the frustrations he went through as he fought to desegregate the schools and fight to ensure that all of the citizens of the United States were treated equally. We heard him argue before the Supreme Court. We shared in his disappointment when losing a case and his joy when he shared his victories, of which there were many, most notably in Brown v Board of Education.
Justice Marshall passed away in 1991, but he is very much alive in the intimate setting of the Black Box Theatre at the New Rep in Watertown. He is because of the amazing talent of Johnny Lee Davenport.
Davenport’s portrayal of Marshall in Thurgood will be remembered as one of the great performances of the year.
When Mr. Davenport first steps into the theater he is walking with a cane and begins reflecting on this amazing life. We are at Howard University where Marshall learned that a black law student had to learn to be better than good because of the challenges he would face.
While attending Lincoln College, Marshall was classmates with Langston Hughes who taught him that “One man can make a difference.” and early on the future Supreme Court Justice vowed he was not going to go through life being humiliated because of the color of his skin.
Johnny Lee Davenport relates these stories and so many others in this amazing journey with such authenticity that there were times when I almost stood up to ask him, meaning Justice Marshall, a question. Mr. Davenport’s movements about the stage, his pauses, the emotions, the subtleties in voice and step that cue us in on the different periods of Marshall’s life are so smooth and authentic that there was never a moment when I didn’t feel I was actually in the presence of Thurgood Marshall.
The Black Box Theater is small. The stage is set with a leather chair on wheels, a table, coat rack, a briefcase, and a stack of books. On the wall are photos of people and places from Marshall’s life including his first wife Buster. Mr. Davenport reaches under the table at times to bring out a small lectern that he uses while arguing cases. It is the ideal setting for such a production. The audience is part of this play as Mr. Davenport makes continuous eye contact with people.
At one point Marshall asks an audience member to read the 14th Amendment. It is a moving moment as we hear the words that guarantee all Americans, ALL AMERICANS, equal protection under the law.
At another point he reaches into his briefcase and takes out two baby dolls, one black and one white. This was the famous doll test that was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark. It is heartbreaking to hear the results of what happened when black children were asked which doll they thought was better and which they would like to be.
Justice Marshall had his flaws as do all humans, but what he accomplished in his life was simply amazing. This man who was born in the same year Jack Johnson became the first Heavyweight Champion, would not rest until this nation abided by the words in the 14th Amendment. He used, in his words, the law as a weapon. It was a weapon he wielded wisely and successfully.
George Stevens, Jr. has put together a wonderful script that never misses a beat. Benny Sato Ambush’s directing is terrific.. They have done an important service in putting together for the stage this amazing story.
I know it is early in the 2017 theatre season, but I can ensure you that Johnny Lee Davenport’s portrayal of Marshall in Thurgood will be remembered as one of the great performances of the year.
byGeorge Stevens, Jr. Directed by Benny Sato Ambush, and featuring Johnny Lee Davenport
JANUARY 7-FEBRUARY 5, 2017
New Repertory Theatre presents Thurgood, January 7-February 5, 2017 in the Black Box Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA. “There is no mistaking the powerful and lasting legacy that Justice Thurgood Marshall had on the judicial system in the United States,” says Artistic Director Jim Petosa. “Arguing landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education deservedly brought him the national attention that eventually propelled him to the nation’s highest court. His story is one of determination and perseverance, so we’re pleased to present this play as we begin our new Prophetic Portraits Series this winter.”
“Thurgood Marshall is the Civil Rights Movement’s unsung hero,” says actor Johnny Lee Davenport. “His nomination to the Supreme Court literally changed America. Looking to the future sometimes means revisiting the past. By doing this play, I hope to remind, maybe even forewarn people that the politics of our country and the laws governing our nation, based on the Constitution of the United States, apply to, and protect all Americans. Not just the rich, not just the privileged, and certainly not just the interests of certain individuals. Thurgood gives us hope and the assurance that one man can make a difference!”
Featuring Johnny Lee Davenport (The Whipping Man) as Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court, Thurgood spans Marshall’s impressive career as a lawyer, arguing such landmark cases as Brown v. Board of Education. Presented during the final month of the Obama administration, Thurgood is a tribute to Marshall’s enduring legacy.Johnny Lee Davenport* (Thurgood Marshall) returns to New Repertory Theatre after performing in The Whipping Man and A House with No Walls. Other area credits include The Unbleached American (Stoneham Theatre); It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Wheelock Family Theatre); Water by the Spoonful and Broke-ology/Elliot Norton Award, Best Actor (The Lyric Stage Company); Driving Miss Daisy and Master Harold…and the Boys (Gloucester Stage Company); and Invisible Man/Helen Hayes Award, Best Ensemble (Studio Theatre Washington, D.C. and The Huntington Theatre Company). Mr. Davenport has played more than 50 roles in 24 of Shakespeare’s plays including Richard III (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Pericles (Actors’ Shakespeare Project); and Richard II (Shakespeare & Company). Film credits include Ted, The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals, and Ascendants. He was named Best Actor in Boston Magazine (2011).
Tickets are $19-$42 and may be purchased by calling the New Rep Box Office at 617-923-8487 or visiting newrep.org.