With 12 Years A Slave garnering so many awards at this season, it's only fair to mention a Jewish tale of freedom, The Whipping Man. Opening February 8, 2014 and continuing until April 13, 2014, the play, written by Matthew Lopez and directed by Howard Teichman, stars three remarkable actors: Shawn Savage (Caleb DeLeon), Ricco Ross (Simon) and Kirk Kellykahn (John.) Presented by the West Coast Jewish Theatre, this multi- award winning play now shows at the Pico Playhouse.
The time period is April, 1865, when, with the Civil War over, many of the defeated rebel soldiers return to what was left of their homes to find that their Southern slaves are now free men. Wounded and barely alive, Caleb DeLeon crawls back to his family manse to find the home in ruins. Only two former slaves, the ever faithful Simon and the wandering John, wait for the DeLeon's to return.
Shocked at what he finds and forced to heal from his near fatal injury, Caleb and the now free servants must come to terms with their past, their history and their futures. Caleb's letter to his lover, Sarah, brought tears to many in the audience.
Having been trained in the Jewish traditions by their master, Simon realizing that the holiday of Passover, representing the freedom of the Jews from Egypt, is at hand and feels that now they are free men, it is only right to hold an improvised Passover sedar among the three of them. Most Jews don't see themselves as slave owners, but it did exist. The theme of freedom from slavery carries through the whole play in many remarkable scenes.
The intense acting was even more spectacular considering that none of the actors had any idea of the Jewish traditions or that there had been Jewish slave owners in the South. All stated that they had been at first reluctant to do the play …until they read the excellent script, which won them over. Some of the humor, unless you were Jewish, might be difficult to understand, but it comes across with ferocious repartee between the men. You did not have to be Black or Jewish to enjoy the play, however. There is an education and entertainment there for everyone. The play is a 10/10.
The set design is by Kurtis Bedford, lighting by Ellen Monocroussous, costume by Michele Young and sound by Bill Froggatt. The stage manager is Priscilla Miranda. Publicity was done by Ken Werther.
The author was awarded the John Gassner New Play Award from the New York Outer Critics Circle for The Whipping Man, which has since been produced at over two dozen theatres across the country. Other plays by Lopez include Somewhere, Reverberation, Zoey's Perfect Wedding, and The Sentinels. His newest play, The Legend of Georgia McBride will appear in Denver this winter. The playwright currently holds new play commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club and Hartford Stage.
Howard Teichman, the Artistic Director of the West Coast Jewish Theatre, has produced and directed numerous plays including I'm Not Rappaport, The Immigrant:The Musical, Neil Simon's Last of the REd Hot Lovers and others.
Ticket prices range from $25-35 and the regular schedule is Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. Call 323 821 2449 or go to the West Coast Jewish Theatre. The Pico Playhouse is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd in Los Angeles, 90064.