The Two River Theater company announced its 2015-2016 season Monday night before an applause-happy crowd and it includes an all-male Plautus-inspired production of “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum” and an all-female staging of “I Remember Mama” in which none of the 10 actresses are under age 65.
Now that’s something you don’t see very often at the country’s top regional theaters.
Nonprofit theaters around the country have been adding value to their brand for years with such things as pre- and-post-performance talks. Two River Theater in Red Bank (NJ) has really thrown itself into building a community by offering lots of free audience-pleasing events other than a 6-play season.
On Monday (May 11) the regional theater, under the artistic direction of John Dias, announces its 2015-’16 season. But instead of sending out a press release to local media, the public is invited to reserve a free ticket in the 399-seat main stage space and hear what’s on the schedule from the directors, artistic staff, and actors who will be part of the season. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event is followed by a reception.
But Judith, an earnest, well-educated white woman in Ruben Santiago-Hudson‘s exciting new play “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine,” believes she can. Zeke, a black man working at a homeless shelter, knows that she can not.
This is the fulcrum on which this play revolves. Like an approaching tornado, the 100-minute play begins calmly. But soon we feel a change in the air as an ill wind begins to pick up. Before you know it the tempest hits full force — metaphorically twisting words and meanings and intent — before it quickly passes leaving bewilderment and resentment in its wake. It’s a wild ride that ends too quickly and without resolution.
Zebedee (left, played by Charles Weldon) and Zeke (Brandon J. Dirden) in the world premiere of “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” at Two River Theater in Red Bank. (Photo: Michal Daniel)
Janeece (played by Roslyn Ruff) and Randall (Andrew Hovelson) in the world premiere of “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” at Two River Theater, Red Bank, NJ (Photo: Michal Daniel)
Zeke (foreground, played by Brandon J. Dirden) and (from left) Janeece (Roslyn Ruff), Randall (Andrew Hovelson) and Judith (Merritt Jan) in the world premiere of “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” at Two River Theater, Red Bank. (Photo: Michal Daniel)
Judith (played by Merritt Janson) and Zeke (Brandon J. Dirden) in the world premiere of “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine” at Two River Theater, 21 Bridge Ave, Red Bank, (Photo: Michal Daniel)
Looking forward to seeing Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s “Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine,” a passionate and explosive debate on America’s relationship to race this weekend at Two River Theater. It couldn’t be more timely with an upcoming presidential election and news cycles that often include stories of black men being killed by white cops.
Running through May 3 at the regional theater in Red Bank, NJ, the world-premiere wants audiences to stay for post-play discussions following every performance. That’s certainly one way to get people of various races together to talk.
Written and directed by Tony Award-winner Santiago-Hudson, the 90-minute play centers on an Upper West Side dinner party invitation that brings an unlikely group together. Two River’s website says it “… brings humor and poignancy to one of the most potent conversations in American life. In our shared history, we all sing the blues. But are your blues sweet like mine?”
“English” actor Michael Cumpsty has only appeared once in a professional theater production in the country where he was born. The rest of his career in major movies, major TV series and major Broadway plays and musicals has been on this side of the Atlantic.