Free Man of Color Is Compelling Drama

 

unnamedFree Man of Color, from playwright Charles Smith, skillfully and intelligently explores the issue of oppression. It is one of Mixed Magic Theatre’s strongest plays in recent memory.

John Newton Templeton is a former slave who is studying at a university in Ohio in 1828. The university is overseen by Reverend Robert Wilson, who invites John to move into his home. Wilson admires John’s intelligence and has plans for his student: He wants John to leave America after graduation and become the ruler of Liberia, but John tells Wilson he is in control of his own choices and destiny.

The acting in Free Man of Color is first rate. JaQuan Stanley is a natural and unaffected presence as John, who narrates his story. Stanley is an appealing and charismatic performer. Geoff White is also terrific as Wilson, a man who is unquestioning in his faith. Kathleen Russell is superb as Wilson’s wife, Jane, who appears to be a deeply bitter woman. Jane has suffered many tragedies in her life, including the deaths of her sons. Russell brings a lot of depth and dimension to what could have been a one-note character.

The interaction between Jane and John provide some of the most powerful moments in the play. They develop a mutual respect as they have something in common: They are both oppressed in a society dominated by white men. Meanwhile, Jane is resentful of John for having opportunities she does not have, including access to higher education.

Free Man of Color reminds us all of what it means to truly be free, and how important it is to fight for equality.

Free Man of Color runs through June 26. Mixed Magic Theater. 560 Mineral Spring Ave, Pawtucket. For tickets, call 401-305-7333. MMTRI.com.

 

 

 

 

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