SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2002 - Uncle Tom's Cabin

Congratulations to the Cast & Crew of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN!!!
Nominated for 3 NAACP Theater Awards!

Outstanding Ensemble
Sound Design: Jason Tuttle         Choreography: Mary Gormley

Also Received one Garland Awards Honorable Mention!
Musical Score:
  The Ensemble

"Heightened hilarity and rattling comic pace... with all the dramatic tension and cliff-hanging suspense of the original [book]!" - LA TIMES BEST BET!

"...Provocative and compelling; never a dead exceptional cast. It is rare to see so many fine actors on one stage...the kind of a play that gets into your head and stays there. It is not to be missed!" - THE AMERICAN REPORTER




Ahmed A. Best, Rob Brink,
Stan Freitag, Carolyn Hennesy,
Jon Huertas, Yvans Jourdain,
Edgar Allan Poe IV, Fred Shahadi
& J. Karen Thomas


On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...
Thu, Fri & Sat @ 8pm
Jan 31 - Feb 23, 2002
Tickets: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
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Produced by Aaron Francis, Allen Lulu, & A.Y. Stephano
Sets - Aaron Francis & Jay Harik
Lights/Graphics/Co-Stage Manager - Aaron Francis
Asst. Director/Co-Stage Manager - Karimah I. Tennyson
Costumes - Jana Hill
Sound Design - Jason M. Tuttle
Props - Stan Freitag
Dance Choreography - Mary Gormley




Photo by Haven Hartman

   To put it in show-biz vernacular, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has legs. "Drama Dept.'s Uncle Tom's Cabin; Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life," at the Sacred Fools Theater, uses Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel as the starting point for a fast, furious and funny parody dealing with the nature of racism.
    Notice the possessory title. Created by Floraine Kay and Randolph Curtis Rand, the show was first produced in 1997 at New York's Drama Dept. Whatever its inception, director Alexander Yannis Stephano and a gifted ensemble make the piece distinctly their own.
    And take particular note of the subtitle, from Charles Darwin's "The Origin of the Species." The emphasis is evident. Comically expressed, the scientific reasons for racial diversity are a primary subtext here, with two wacky, ersatz professors (Stan Freitag and Fred Shahadi) interrupting the action at intervals to "lecture" on the subject, in broad Italian accents a la Chico Marx.
     It's all part of the heightened hilarity and rattling comic pace. But don't let the slapstick fool you. Belly laughs segue into pained grimaces, as the full and nasty import of slavery is hammered home. The eclectic source material includes quotes from literary luminaries, political figure, even harrowing first-hand accounts from former slaves. However loose the adaptation may be, it is still a surprisingly faithful recapitulation of Stowe's book, with all the dramatic tension and cliff-hanging suspense of the original.
     The tone varies wildly, from melodrama to minstrel show to political polemic. The core ensemble--Carolyn Hennesy, Jon Huertas, Yvans Joudain, Edgar Allan Poe IV, and J. Karen Thomas--is well equipped to handle any contingency. Gender-bending and color-blind casting are the rule, with women playing men, blacks playing whites and young playing old seamlessly.
     Aaron Francis' lighting and set are praiseworthy, and the ensemble contributes sprightly original music to the mix. A tad long-winded and overwrought, the piece could have used a little trimming, but that's a quibble in an otherwise impressive production.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

LA Weekly (Recommended!)

Photo by Haven Hartman

Director Alexander Yannis Stephano gives Floraine Kay and Randolph Curtis Rand’s 1997 deconstruction of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 slavery novel a stylish if self-conscious treatment. The past 150 years of American race relations are touched upon, using quotations by James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Darwin, Stowe and about a dozen others, as well as scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Five multiethnic actors (Carolyn Hennesy, Jon Huertas, Yvans Joudain, Edgar Allan Poe IV and J. Karen Thomas) slip in and out of some 40 parts, portraying both races and genders, and it's a challenge to keep straight the multiple role reversals, even with the help of stage hands (Aaron Francis and Karimah Tennyson) who introduce the scenes and provide sound effects. The emotional impact of Uncle Tom's tragic life is lessened by such theatrical devices as a scientific discussion of race with Italian scientists (Stan Freitag and Fred Shahadi), a burlesque show and a debate involving some of the above-mentioned historical figures. The cast should be credited for the rare moments of absorbing drama, especially Hennesy as a boozer-turned-Quaker who helps runaway slaves, Thomas as an irrepressible servant girl and Jourdain as a sympathetic daughter of a plantation owner.

-- Miriam Jacobson


Since its heyday more than 30 years ago, presentational theater has been on the decline, disappearing from the mainstream of American drama to the extent that except for standard works in the genre by Beckett, Ionesco, et al., one sees few new productions in this mode.

Be that as it may, there is clearly still a definite place in the repertoire for this kind of theater when it possesses the degree of vitality manifested in this staging at The Sacred Fools Theatre

Originally produced at the Drama Department in New York to substantial acclaim, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is, of course about race and slavery, an overly familiar subject in our literature. By viewing these issues through low comedy, burlesque, and absurdism, as well as through traditional realism, playwrights Floraine Kay and Randolph Curtis Rand are able to approach the subject in an original and often humorous way without diluting their message.

With a passion for nontraditional casting that would horrify August Wilson, black males become white females in media res and white females are the reverse. One moment an actor is playing Simon Legree; the next he may be Uncle Tom or Eva. Despite these permutations, the direction of the narrative remains clear and the effect is provocative and compelling; there's never a dead spot in this fine staging based loosely on Stowe's classic novel.

Director Alexander Yannnis Stephanos has assembled an exceptional cast. It is rare to see so many fine actors on one stage. They include the exquisite and versatile Carolyn Hennesy, Ahmed Best, Stan Freitag, Yvans Jourdain, Edgar Allan Poe IV, Fred Shahadi, and J. Karen Thomas.

Aaron Francis makes the most of the limited space at the Sacred Fools with his flexible set design.

This is the kind of a play that gets into your head and stays there. It is not to be missed.

-- T.S. Kerrigan
2002 The American Reporter


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