By: Alex Spindler ~Arts & Entertainment Editor~
The sheer brilliance and potency of live theatre exploded on Oct. 23 at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park with the world premiere of “Safe House.” Penned by Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins, this compelling historical drama revolves around brothers Addison and Frank Pedigrew, along with their Aunt Dorcas, during the 1840s in northern Kentucky.
Having been born free African-Americans in a society overwrought with terror and racial
intolerance, the Pettigrews are punished for two years for assisting fugitives to escape north of
the Ohio River. During this time, they cannot visit parts of town or even keep their doors closed. The seemingly heroic protagonist, Addison, desperately wants to open a shoe shop of his own, and naïve yet big-hearted Frank seeks justice for all escaped slaves passing by.
When Roxie, a young, maltreated slave appears at the house, the family faces perilous questions of loyalty and trust, all under the tutelage of an unnamed Sheriff. This ensemble of six superb actors brought ferocity to a script already teeming with humor, historical veracity and poignant drama. Stephanie Berry, as the maternal Aunt Dorcas, carried herself with such grace and power that one would think the part was written just for her.
LeRoy McClain and Shane Taylor, as the clashing brothers Addison and Frank, respectively, portrayed bite and wit with every line delivered and created a moment of such intensity that
audible gasps were frequent in that moment. I dare not spoil the surprise.
Per usual, the Marx Theatre at Playhouse in the Park boasted an impressive scenic design of protruding roof beams, gorgeous costumes and intricate lighting that illuminates at just the right moments. Audience members truly felt transported to another era of both antebellum grandeur and grotesque social disorder.
The only issue was with the volume. The theater is set up true proscenium-style with blocking
that positioned the characters oftentimes in a thrust setting. Because of this, the actors would have their backs turned to different sides of the house throughout the play. Certain moments
of quiet intimacy caused phrases to be lost in the jumble since the actors did not perform with microphones.
However, these moments were few and far between. The overall composition of the actors and their dedication to the script made for an engrossing drama that is sure to find a life in regional companies and potentially off-Broadway houses for years to come.
“Safe House” will run until Nov. 15 at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Tickets are available online at http://www.cincyplay. com or by calling the box office at 513-421-3888.