Rarely have I seen theater perfected in the way Sarah Benson delivers Branden Jacob-Jenkins adaptation of An Octoroon. The Theater for a New Audience has given this returning melodrama a new home and has given you a second chance to not miss this masterpiece. Jacob-Jenkins hands us Dion Boucicault’s original story in a lively modernized rendition while keeping the classic themes and voice intact.
An Octoroon takes place at Terrebonne, a southern cotton plantation. Here we find George, heir to the estate, newly arrived from Paris. He finds the plantation in financial ruin but rich with beauty. Foremost in beauty for him is Zoe, the Octoroon. Zoe and George fall quickly in love, but there love is threatened by the evil overseer M’Closky.
Both George and M’Closky are given life by Austin Smith. Smith is a dynamo. His melodramatic portrayal of each character is hilarious and yet truly believable. In addition to these two characters, he also portrays the plays adaptor, Branden Jacob-Jenkins. His remarkable delivery made me question more than once the honesty of the playbill in my hand.
Haynes Thigpen and Ian Lassiter are an amazing pair. The two put on numerous faces in this production and with each, bring the stage to life with their wit, chemistry, whimsy and charisma. Another amazing pair is hilariously handed us in the duo of Maechi Aharanwa (Minnie) and Pascale Armand (Dido). These two sass their way into our funny bone while they helping to ease some of the difficult content our way. This eases the heavier drama of Amber Gray (Zoe), who wears her heart on her sleeve and tears at all with her anguish.
The rounding out of the melodrama for the evening is wrapped up in a bow in the form of Mary Wiseman as Dora. Wiseman introduces herself with at least eight put on caricatures in half as many minutes. She is hilarious and owns the stage.
The mono-chromatic set by Mimi Lien is a perfect setting for the silly and soulful drama that director Sarah Benson sets up, leaving room for surprises at all corners. Lester St Louis adds all the color the set needs with his cello off to the side and in case some real color is needed, Wade LaBoissonniere’s costumes are a delightful spectacle.This is your second chance to see An Octoroon through the eyes of playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins. It is funny, witty and thoughtful, and it would be to your detriment if you miss it.
Review By: Paul Morin
Photos By: Gerry Goldstien