When Stars Align - History Lives at the Odyssey

History was never this interesting in high school! WHEN STARS ALIGN begins just before the Civil War on a Louisiana plantation. The proprietor’s son rapes a field slave and produces a mulatto boy named Thaddeus (a strong portrayal by Jason Woods). The boy grows to maturity, educated by his white grandfather, against the backdrop of a divided country fighting for the emancipation of slaves. Intermingled with the larger picture of a society’s struggles is the intimate love story of Thaddeus falling for a white woman (artfully played by Haley McHugh). And the Civil War rages on.

 

The bloody Civil War finally ends; but a decade of near racial equality comes to a screeching halt when Federal troops are removed from the South, heralding the end of the Reconstruction Era. The world will never be the same – and yet may not really change – as Thaddeus tries to drive away his lover, believing that society will never condone their relationship, regardless of their newly-won “freedom.” Over a century would pass before civil rights would once again take hold.

 

Based on the novel by Carole Eglash-Kosoff, this provocative script was co-authored by the novelist and John Henry Davis, who also serves as director for the world premiere play. A fine production team adds to the success of this piece. There’s a sparkling, star-studded sky by multi-award winning lighting designer Leigh Allen, several cleverly utilized platforms complete with dangling Spanish moss, and a well-placed empty rocking chair, designed by JR Bruce. So too are the costumes realistically crafted by Michael Mullen with sound by Christopher Moscatiello.

 

WHEN STARS ALIGN reproduces – no, relives - Civil War plantation life at its best and worst. And last, but by no means least, solo violinist Eric Charles Jorgenson and a chorus of outstanding voices create the mood - even before the words are spoken. Foot-tapping rhythms and slaves toiling in the hot sun, unexpected kindness and unprovoked violence, young love and wanton sexual pleasures - all packed together into a nation-shaping moment in U.S. history. Will the stars align to create freedom, peace, and an end to racial prejudice and violence? Will the two star-crossed lovers be free to create a life together? Can the results of a civil war change the human heart? These are questions raised and thoughtfully developed in a style reminiscent of ancient Greek tragedies. Special kudos to a strong ensemble of multi-talented actors. They keep both the exuberance and the poignancy of this tale alive. Despite the play’s setting 150 years ago, the message remains timely and gripping. And, after all, isn’t that what good theater is all about?

 

WHEN STARS ALIGN runs from September 5 to October 4, 2015, as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre. Performances are at 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2 pm on Sundays, with two Thursday performances at 8 pm on September 24 and October 1. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.  Tickets are $30 ($25 for students and seniors). For reservations, call 323-960-7738 or go online at www.plays411.com/starsalign.

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