Mainstage Season Starts with Brilliant Performances, “Unconventional Approach” to “Wedding Band”

By Ariella Mastroianni, Staff Writer

’Tis the “Season of Strong Women,” according to Fordham’s Mainstage calendar. It also seems to be the season of strong theatrical performances, as audiences witnessed on Oct. 7 with the opening of Alice Childress’ play “Wedding Band” at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC)’s Pope Auditorium.

Set in South Carolina during World War I, “Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White” tells the tortured love story of a black seamstress, Julia, and a white baker, Herman, played by Mayaa Boateng and Dan Kleinmann, both FCLC ’13. Although the plot is cliché (woman loves man, man loves woman, woman and man can’t be together), the play effectively exposes the severity of the era’s racial segregation through the couple’s condemned relationship, allowing the audience to be moved emotionally by these issues rather than feel as if they’re witnessing a history lesson.

Both Boateng and Kleinmann portray their characters beautifully, demanding the audience’s full attention with their heart-wrenching performances. They approach their roles with equal parts sincerity and anguish, while flawlessly emoting the characters’ violent love for each other. On opening night, the lead performances were chilling, each well deserving of their received standing ovations.

Performances by Emily Stout, FCLC ’13, and Akilah Walker in the roles of the young, white girl Princess and the boastful, black landlord Fanny are also highly notable, demonstrating thrilling energy and favorable comedic relief. Kalon Hayward, FCLC ’12, also gives a strong performance in the role of a war-bound African American, successfully portraying a delicate earnestness in an otherwise aggressive role.

Although the cast complements each other wonderfully, some scenes are diminished by empty space and slow-moving dialogue, drawing out the performance to three hours. However, these slight drawbacks in pacing are made up for in the play’s unconventional delivery. Director Daniel Alexander Jones, assistant professor of theatre, showers the performance with progressive, artistic stylings that captivate audiences immediately.

His unconventional approach is made clear even before the play begins as audiences are guided through a short museum situated at the rear of Pope Auditorium. Separated into six small sections, the museum echoes the heart and soul of the play’s message, focusing on the social and political issues present during the War. The museum’s use of images and video clips brilliantly immerses the audience in the play’s poignant and dramatic social commentary, setting the perfect pre-performance atmosphere.

Casting is another example of Jones’ striking artistic choices, with the role of Teeta, a young black girl, performed by the lively and refreshing Justin Hashimoto, FCLC ’12. Although Hashimoto’s charming portrayal of the character provides a delightful contrast to the play’s overall somber atmosphere, the significance of the nontraditional casting is unclear, leaving the audience confused.  However, it is certainly an intriguing choice that should have been brought more into focus.

Also deserving of recognition is the work of choreographer Baraka de Soleil, who enhances the play with dispersed musical segments, used mostly as transitions. In these segments, the cast joins in song and dance, using their bodies to create driving, rhythmic beats. These short numbers enhance the gravity of the show’s subject matter, translating the play’s mood to the audience more directly.

Both the lighting and staging of the performance compliment the scenes brilliantly, never once pulling focus. Jones is able to bring all areas of the stage to life at all times in a way that was both subtle and natural. The set is also perfectly modest, allowing the play’s color and vibrancy to be expressed through the performance of the actors.

With only a few performances left, “Wedding Band” is certainly a show worth seeing, especially for those hoping to be left in awe by young, talented actors. For details on show times and ticket prices, click here.