If any great production is worth experiencing twice, any great Antaeus Company production (and so far just about everything Antaeus has done fits neatly into that category) is even more worth that second visit if only to experience the added excitement of seeing each and every role played by a brand new actor (courtesy of the Antaeus custom of “partner casting”).
A second visit to Alice Childress’s Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story In Black And White (click here for my original review) proves equally as rewarding as the first—and the “Sweet Potatoes” every bit as brilliant as the “Honey Bunches”—albeit with often quite distinctive looks and equally diverse takes on the multifaceted roles Childress has written for them.
Karole Foreman is subtly superb as Julia, every inch a lady—and fish out of water—in her new neighborhood, and her leading man, the always charismatic Leo Marks, plays Herman with complexity and charm.
Saundra McClain’s fabulous Lula gives Mahalia Jackson a run for her money, Karen Bankhead plays Fanny with a deliciously prim-and-proper prissiness, and Cheryl Francis Harrington brings oceans of depth and maternal love to Mattie.
Jason Turner makes for a forceful, ingratiating, sexy Nelson, while Brian Abraham is a creepy, menacing Bell Man.
A steel-edged Anne Gee Byrd and a delicately-shaded Karianne Flaathen could not add up to a more magnificent mother-daughter duo, and when Byrd and Foreman match hate/venom-spewing tongues, the effect is devastating.
Child performers Olivia Sparks (Teeta) and Ranya Jaber (Princess) complete the cast quite charmingly in their cameos.
As to which cast to opt for, I offer the following suggestions. A) Flip a coin. B) Pick the most convenient Saturday evening or Saturday or Sunday matinee to fit your schedule. C) Go on either a “Dear Hearts” Thursday or Friday evening to see a blended cast.
No matter which actors you see, Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story In Black And White is (as previously stated) American theater at its absolute finest—and not to be missed.
The Antaeus Company, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
November 1, 2014
Photos: Geoffrey Wade Photography