March 23, 2016
By Dr. Leonard Golubchck, LaborPress Entertainment Editor
New York, NY – The Royale is a powerful and riveting play by Marco Ramirez. The main character of the play, Jay Jackson, is based upon a 1910 fight between Jack Johnson and James J Jeffries who was the undefeated of the world who was coaxed out of retirement. This became known as the “the fight of the century”. Johnson won the fight and became a source of pride and advancement for African-Americans.
The main character is loosely based upon the life of Jack Johnson who was personified in the 1968 award winning play “The Great White Hope” by Howard Sackler and portrayed by James Earl Jones.
The play is dynamically directed by Rachel Chavkin with Chris Davis impeccable performance as Jay. His sparring partner played by McKinley Bleecher III provides us with an energetic performance Other performers include Clarke Peters ( who plays Wynton who is Jay’s trainer), John Lavelle ( who portrays his white manager as well as various newspaper reporters) and Montegro Glover (who is Jays’ sister) as she has to mediate between threats and Jay’s ambition.
There is no actual fighting in the show, but the director deftly has the audience believe the fighter and is sparring partner are trading blows. Jay has to deal with the publicity of the forthcoming fight but fails to recognize the significance in Jim Crow America. This struggle adds to the dramatic moments of the play. The sets by Nick Vaughn and the lighting by Austin Smith add to the audiences experience in terms of gritty mood and developing a catharsis for the plays characters.