REVIEW: "Red Velvet" at The Old Globe Offers Historical Tale

San Diego's The Old Globe

"Red Velvet" at The Old Globe

When people discuss the color barrier today, they often speak of political issues or personal rights; very rarely are the arts mentioned. Yet in the 1800s, a color barrier very much did exist in the theatre––until Ira Aldridge broke it in London.

Written by Lolita Chakrabarti, Red Velvet tells the story of London's Theatre Royal in the early 1800s, when the city was on the cusp of a cultural evolution that included the abolition of slavery. In this play, New York-born Ira Aldridge [Albert Jones] finds himself unexpectedly offered the chance to fill an ailing actor's place in Othello, playing the titular character. The problem? Aldridge is black, and in London theatre, the color barrier still very much existed. Directed by Stafford Arima, Red Velvet follows Aldridge as he struggles to prove his worth in London.

Red Velvet Old Globe

The poignant play is very much relevant today, from the overt racism of Charles Kean [John Lavelle], a man who's place in London's Theatre Royal is based largely on nepotism, to the shock felt by the aging Terence Bernard Ward [Mark Pinter], to the subtle confusion and commentary of leading lady Ellen Tree [Allison Mack], who plays Desdemona to Aldridge's Othello.

The ever-funny Amelia Pedlow played a plethora of roles, including Polish journalist Halina Wozniack and ditzy actress Betty Lovell, while the charming, if awkward, Henry Forrester is portrayed by Michael Aurelio. Finally, Monique Gaffney is the strong and subdued servant Connie.

The Old Globe

Red Velvet is a vibrant look at history, telling the personal plights and triumphs of Ira Aldridge on an intricate set designed by Jason Sherwood. Filled with Shakespeare jokes and historical nods, Red Velvet is a play made for literary lovers and London-afficiados. Tickets to The Old Globe's Red Velvet are available on The Old Globe's website or by calling (619) 234-5623. The show is running until April 30th on the Donald and Darlene Shiley stage.

The Old Globe

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