BY CLIFF KASDEN
The Titan Theatre Company offers groundbreaking productions as Queens Theatre’s resident troupe and continues to deliver creative versions of Shakespeare’s classics for consistently packed houses. Their latest project is a based-on-fact presentation called “The African Company Presents Richard III.”
Playwright Carlyle Brown’s drama unfolds in New York City in the 1820s, with several African-American actors presenting a very popular version of Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Meanwhile a competing, very hostile theater company is onstage just next door. The interactions between the opposing troupes are intense. The dynamics between the actors preparing for the performance become the heart and soul of the drama. This variation on a play within a play is well conveyed.
Director Marcus Denard Johnson, a well-respected artistic associate for Titan, guides this talented troupe. The scenic designer, Lenny Banovez, is Titan’s artistic director. Darius Aushay plays the evil hunchback King Richard III. His offstage personality is even more significant and critical to the storyline. He rallies his fellow actors to stand strong. They will need their innermost courage and clearest emotions to thrive in a hostile, 19th century environment. His deep feelings for Ann (Psacoya Guinn) are sincere and unwavering. Ann eventually returns his affection. This is due in large part to clever mediation from a fellow thespian named Shakespeare.
Papa Shakespeare is played with charm and humor by Anthony Michael Stokes. He intercedes in many of the story’s confrontations whether they are romantic complications or cruel minded racial tensions. Wise Sarah (Rachel Davenport) is a skillful sounding board. She is there for Ann and others as they face their insecurities in an era where talent for those less favored was seldom equally rewarded.
Mario Haynes as William Henry Brown offers a full range of expression from sensitivity to anger to productive creativity. He faces his adversaries (played by Tristan Colton and John St. Croix) with both conviction and guile.
Kudos to the entire staff at every level of creativity and production. The next endeavor will be “Romeo and Juliet.” For information on this production and future projects, visit www.titantheatrecompany.com, call 718-715-5369 or “like” them on Facebook or check Instagram and Twitter. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.