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American Moor Powerfully Projects Forth Wisely

American Moor Powerfully Projects Forth Wisely

An impressive presence stalks the stage, tense and focused, saying his lines with a hurried internalized force that you can feel the muscles straining against an unmovable wall. You wonder where we are, and in what direction Keith Hamilton Cobb’s acclaimed play American Moor is heading. But we quickly find our footing. He’s running some lines before a fraught audition for the role in Othello, a part that he has been told about for far too long. This African-American actor, played by the handsome and powerful Cobb, consents to the soul crushing process of being scrutinized and dictated to by a younger white male director, who somehow believes that his vision of Shakespeare’s most iconic black character has more merit.  Race and Shakespeare, always a complicated task to navigate in the modern theatrical world. It seems some go full out, or claim color blind casting while giving out tokens to some in minor roles but casting with a traditional eye with the leads. It seems ridiculous but it doesn’t seem to be going away. What follows is not just a 90 minute play about theatre, Shakespeare, color-blind casting, and race though, but a dissection and dissertation of America as a whole, and our communal understanding of a strong African American male bursting force with anguished emotion, “coming on like a stiff prick” making all those “Mr. Director Man” characters wiggle uncomfortably in their seat.

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Keith Hamilton Cobb in American Moor. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The audition unfolds, with all the inequality and lopsidedness that exists within this process. Cobb, famously known to most as the uber masculine Tyr Anasazi on the sci-fi series ‘Andromeda‘ and as the boyfriend of the leading character in the second and final season of Logo’s ‘Noah’s Arc’ stands upright before us all, as a classical actor, baring his soul and heart in the hopes to secure the part that he seems, by all accounts, to be destined to play. It’s a complicated process, this internal dialogue that we are privy to hear and react to (thanks to the exacting lighting design by Alan C. Edwards; scenic design by Wilson Chin; costumes by Dede Ayite; sound by Christian Frederickson), and his opinions of the part and his place in the room, usually unspoken, is as steadfastly wise as his pushback is furiously delivered. It’s a powerfully honest raw piece of writing and acting, earnest and captivating, filling the space at the Cherry Lane Theatre with an intelligent ease. Physically his present is majestic, sensual and elastic, giving us nuances of all types he has experienced without diving into negativity. Completely engaging, in his humor and his rage, Cobb breaths life and dedication into this essential portrayal of the failure of many in American theatre to see beyond stereotypes, even when the thinking is liberal and supposedly color blind.

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Keith Hamilton Cobb in American Moor. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The love of Shakespeare is obvious, driving forth this project from his real life resume of roles and August Wilson parts. There’s not much this white Mr. Theatre Critic man can say about the actor’s experience of being such a man in this world, that Cobb can’t say with far more passion and understanding. “You just picked up the race deck” he bellows as this discussion is about Othello, not Richard III (a part I’d gladly go to lengths to see). His Titania is ravishing, changing the way I’ll hear that speech in the future. It’s breathtaking to witness this man’s unquestionable and inquisitive power, as directed with steadfast authority by Kim Weild (Cherry Lane’s First Love). His stance and his vantage rings true and with a magnetic power that is undeniable. Cobb’s actor stands solid in front of his own version of the Senate, confident in what he needs and wants to do, regardless of what “Mr. Director Man“, played strongly by the seated Josh Tyson (59E59’s Wolves) envisions from his privileged place out front. Breathe deep and dive in, is all I can say, and get ready to be enlightened  by his brother’s dignity, and his own. This American Moor knows what he has to say, and, eventually, through (almost) tears of uncompromised passion, takes a knowing stand against all those who feel they know better. He can’t hold back. And no one can, or should, deny this man’s his say.

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Keith Hamilton Cobb in American Moor. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Cherry Lane Theatre. Photo by Ross

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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