Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
My Lord, What a Night is far from a perfect play. Historical accuracy is limited, especially in act two, which takes place two years later. The lead characters remain considerably less riveting than in real life, but this allows the author to tell a story that stimulates thought regarding the issues of prejudice and race relations. This is where My Lord, What a Night comes into its own. The last few years in our country, these issues have become harder and harder to talk about, and this play is a good resource platform for such discussions.
All of the acting is on an acceptable level, but mostly due to the characters being sketches there are no standouts. Thursday Farrar portrays Marian Anderson as a woman of warmth and dignity. I have had a longtime fascination with Anderson, who built a world class career in the face of huge racial obstacles to become the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, and in a leading role, paving the way for many others. The reality is so much more than what appears on stage. Ditto Albert Einstein, who, as portrayed by David Edwards wearing one of the worst stage wigs ever seen, is little more than slightly irascible. Brilliance on the level of Einstein does not come this neatly wrapped; there are usually rough edges. Rod Brogan plays Abraham Flexner, who midway in the second act makes a major emotional change regarding his Jewish heritage that just does not ring true. Nehassaiu DeGannes as Mary Church Terrell has the best fleshed-out role and makes the most of that opportunity.
Kate Alexander's direction is competent but a bit pedestrian with some rather stagnant stage movement. Scenic design by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay is effective: doric columns outlining bookshelves for Albert Einstein's home. Costume design by Lea Umberger is rich, with a gorgeous velvet outfit for Ms. Anderson in the second act. Lighting design by Michael Pasquini is at his always highly professional level.
The play is part of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere program and has played the Contemporary American Theater Festival in West Virginia and digitally at Orlando Shakespeare Theater before landing at Florida Studio Theatre.
My Lord, What a Night runs through August 15, 2021, at Florida Studio Theatre, Keating Theater, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order): Abraham Flexner: Rod Brogan*