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Arts and Entertainment

You Should Go See This Play Now: 'The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King' at Atwater Village Theatre

Carlos Carrasco and Philip Casnoff in 'The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King' (photo by Maia Rosenfeld).
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Andrew Dolan's provocative and honest drama, The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King, is playing at Atwater Village Theatre. This Ensemble Studio Theatre production examines multi-faceted, often hidden complexities of racism in the United States. Dolan respectfully approaches inequality paradigms in a way that is rarely found in any arena -- be it political, economic, social, or artistic.

The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is not pandering, jokey, insulting, or overly-academic; but rather wonderfully insightful, fearless, and honorable. The timely script portrays a mixed-race family struggling to deal with race-based inequality and academic politics as their individual social realities and perceptions foster conflict. With its crisp direction, cordial staging, astute writing, and a superbly talented cast The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is a truly excellent production that demonstrates exactly how wonderful theatre at its best.

The engaging and absorbing ensemble cast of The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King brilliantly portrays characters with tremendous clarity. Philip Casnoff unfailingly and unapologetically navigates the central role of Simon, a controversial, unlikable, sociology professor and novelist. Casnoff is an intrepid performer -- at once bold, edgy, and dynamic. Tracey A. Leigh is Lashawna, Simon's wife and a budding professor. Leigh is resolute, yet artfully subtle as she tenaciously channels Lashawna's delicately balanced strength-out-of-strain persona. The role of performing arts professor Janine, is gracefully rendered by Judith Moreland. Her heartening and impassioned delivery of lines that describe the inherent power of theatre is utterly blissful to witness. Carlos Carrasco plays a distinguished and understanding department chair. Carrasco fills his character with warmth, graciousness, and sentiment while crafting delicate meta messages that elevate all those around him. Moreland and Carrasco, when together on stage, are masters of unspoken tension. Finally, Theo Perkins plays Anquan, Lashawna's immature but sensible younger brother. Perkins uses perfectly realistic comedic delivery and a knowing resolve to give his role lingering weightiness and depth.

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Tracey A. Leigh, Theo Perkins, and Philip Casnoff in 'The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King' (photo by Maia Rosenfeld).
Under the direction of Rod Menzies, The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is a transportive and transformative production that oozes consciousness and demonstrates the expansive capacity of theatre. His compelling staging simmers with energized intensity and lofty nerve. Tasteful set design by Tom Buderwitz feels homey and inviting. Lighting by J. Kent Inasy is simple, thoughtful, and at times gorgeous. Simply put, The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is a must-see gem and a sheer pleasure to partake of.

The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is playing through April 29 at Atwater Village Theatre. Tickets are $25 with several pay-what-you-can dates. Ticketing is available online or via phone at 323-644-1929.

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