Story and Photos by Dana Nollsch
“The Royale” plays at Good Luck Macbeth Theater Company from February 9th through February 24th, 2018.
For Jay Johnson the fight is not only in the ring but also with the knowledge that his actions will bring consequences.
On July, 4th 1910 Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries faced off on the Eastern edge of the small city of Reno, NV, in a boxing match that would take the country by storm.
“The Royale” is the story of the events that led up to this historic boxing match, with liberties to the historical record. Jack Johnson becomes Jay “The Sport” Jackson and Jim Jeffries becomes Bernard Bixby.
“The Royale” was written by Marco Ramirez, the award-winning writer of the hit TV series Orange Is the New Black and Sons of Anarchy. The story is tight with the rhythm of a powerful song, and indeed that rhythm makes much of the dialog like a song.
It was such a pleasure to be in the audience on the opening night for this powerful production. It was obvious that the actors were driven by the passion of this powerful play.
Jay Jackson is a powerful man in the prime of his career not wanting to acknowledge his limitations. His main limitation is that he is a black man in a white sport. We know that he will win the fight and become the true heavyweight champion, but at what cost?
Add to the mix, an up and coming contender, a wise but quiet trainer, a dedicated fight promoter, and Jay’s sister, this becomes a tale of determination at all costs.
I found this production to be captivating in not only the story, but also the rhythm and pacing that brings the audience to the finish of the fight that we know is coming, but also the surprising twist to activate the thoughts of the bigger picture in all of our lives.
The way the fight scenes are portrayed is brilliantly intriguing in the fact that no punches ever land but the audience feels every blow. Add that to the rhythmic pacing and you have a winning story.
The cast brings a passion and depth to the characters that will keep you spellbound.
Jay “The Sport” Jackson is played by William Woods, with a powerful presence of a champion.
Wynton, the trainer played by Eric Williams, with the insightful silence of the wise observer.
Fish, the up and coming boxer/sparring partner is played by Julius Funches II, with a naive ego matched by raw talent.
Nina, Jay’s sister brings the voice of reason with a powerfully caring performance, played by Amelia Giles.
Max, the fight promoter and referee is played by Keith Roberts, the glue that holds the characters together.
This cast works very well together with a balance that adds to the rhythm of the story.
Rounding out the production is:
John Fredrick, directing and a bit more (you will have to see the play to find out what I mean).
Jesse Brigs, assistant director.
Hanna Gerbensleben does a wonderful job with stage managing.
Joe Atack and Hanna Gerbensleben created the lighting that follows the mood of the story very nicely.
Bill Ware and Joe Atack built the set.
The wonderful period costuming was done by Lyndsey Langsdale.
As I type this out I do realize that to put on a production of this quality you need a team that can bring their own quality to the table.
I also should mention that this was the first production at the new location of Good Luck Macbeth Theater Company. The new building is much larger and much less claustrophobic.
I can tell you that I enjoyed “The Royale” very much and would love to see it again.
For More information about Good Luck Macbeth Theater Company and showtimes for “The Royale” check out GLM’s website: http://www.goodluckmacbeth.org/