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Restaurant lunch highlights:

Art & About: 'The Royale'

Art & About: 'The Royale'

Fight story presents alternate outcome

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Smart, clever, emotional, syncopated, and incredibly timely. The Hippodrome Theater's 'The Royale' is one of the most poignant, thought-provoking, compelling dramatic presentations you will ever experience. And experience is the key word in that just-mentioned, long list of theatrical superlatives.

Could a historical story of race and segregated society be more timely or relevant to view than it is today considering what is happening in our world, right now?

011818RoyaleRAMIERZPlaywright Marco Ramirez has written a fictional story very loosely based on the life of Jack Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight champion.

This powerful drama of might vs. right, underdog vs. hero, white vs. black was co-directed choreographed beautifully by first time director Ryan George, and the Hipp's Lauren Warhol Caldwell. The creative collaboration works seamlessly as we watch this up and coming black prize fighter working toward his dream match only to encounter internal demons the boxer has been fighting most of his life.

 

011818RoyaleFEFTHOOK

CLAP, CLAP-CLAP! STOMP, STOMP-STOMP!

Our up-and-coming prize fighter, Jay "The Sport" Jackson (Bryce Michael Wood), is working the small time boxing circuit. He chides his promoter Max (Dylan Kammerer) for hesitating to get him a match with the current heavyweight boxing champion, who is white. Max boastfully describes himself as "the world's only interracial fight promoter." One of Jay's opponents, the Fish (Ryan George) a fighter wanna-be, becomes Jay's sparring partner.

011818quoteMax finally persuades the white heavyweight champion to agree to a match, albeit with onerous, humiliating terms: 90 percent of the gate, win or lose.

The boxing paradigm shifts when Jay's sister, Nina (Renata Eastlock), visits him and tells him her fears of the dire consequences to him and her race during this Jim Crow era of racial intolerance: "Look at the dogs you're about to unleash," Nina cautions. "And when it happens, don't say I didn't warn you."

Tormented by his sister's statements conflicting with his own personal hopes of celebrity, fame, and making a black statement for the world, the audience is transported into Jay's mind as we view an extraordinarily unique take on the art of boxing.

 

CLAP, CLAP-CLAP! STOMP, STOMP-STOMP!

o11818RoyaleACTORS5

The Hipp's five actor ensemble adeptly creates a surreal alternate world of Jay's personal cerebral conflict over the first time ever black vs. white boxing challenge. This visual transition was masterfully accomplished a unifying choreograph of all the actors emphasizing the plays dramatic circumstances with a full rhythmic chorus of sharp hand clapping, attention-grabbing foot stomping, and "lyrics" of exclamatory monosyllables of surprise and impact.

zzGLOBbullet 011818RoyaleBAGBryce Michael Woods's portrayal of Jay 'The Sport' (above center was on the spot as a cocky, sure of himself athlete with all the answers and living for his one big break to hit the big time. The change in this character when his sister arrives is remarkable and telling as 'The Sport" reflects on a new reason for this prize fight of the century. IMPRESSIVE Mr. Woods!

zzGLOBbullet Renata Eastlick's character, Nina (above right), won my heart as the take charge older sister who knew how to push Jay into the sphere of this social era's right and wrong. I could literally feel Nina's demand for Jay's attention with her sharp, staccato foot stomp, furrowed eyebrows, and angry, staccato voice demanding baby brother listen to his sister. MAGNIFICENT Ms. Eastlick!

zzGLOBbullet Ryan George's Fish (above second right) is the perfect embodiment of the era's racial culture with an eagerness to do right and supports his black brothers. According to the director notes, Mr. George has played Jay 'The Sport' in a previous production. BRAVO Mr. George!

zzGLOBbullet Dylan Kammerer's Max (above second left) is the play's story teller and adeptly moves us through this alternate world of right and wrong with multiple personalities of a sports agent, reporter, and the boxer's best friend. FANTASTIC Mr. Kammerer!

zzGLOBbullet E. Stanley Richardson (above, image left) portrays Wynton, Jay's trainer, as a familiar character -- an old worn out fighter hoping to make it big with his new found protégé. MOVING Mr. Richardson!

 

CLAP, CLAP-CLAP! STOMP, STOMP-STOMP!

The smart directing, superb acting, and incredibly well choreographed 'fight scenes' by Movement Director Rudi Goblen make me want to see this play again. The Hipp's entire design team receives MAJOR KUDOS and GLOB HIGH FIVES for creating an extraordinary environment of action, pain, and love in a small squared circle of a boxing ring. This couldn't have happened without the dramatic hand clapping and loud staccato foot stomping and call outs by the full cast in perfect unison. This team also included some amazing theatrical techniques, bells and whistles I'm not talking about. I strongly suggest you see them for yourself.

 

011818RoyaleFACEOFF

CLAP, CLAP-CLAP! STOMP, STOMP-STOMP!

Towards the end of the play the highlight of the story for me was Jay sitting on the edge of the stage, alone, head down, contemplating all that was about to happen with the big match. The weight of the racially charged and socially destructive world was literally pressing him down into the mat.

And all Jay 'The Sport' wanted was to be the World Champion – because it would make things right.

Images courtesy of Gainesville Downtown, and Rachel Jones/Hippodrome. The Royale continues through February 11 on various days and times. FOLLOW THS LINK for more information.

Last modified onWednesday, 24 January 2018 06:01
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