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McKinley Belcher III

The Light

February 20, 2019

With the audience sitting ringside on three sides of the new theater, and performed by Masden and Belcher at the top of their game, The Light is thrilling theater. Their Gen and Rashad are both sympathetic, attractive characters and their story and their dilemma is entirely gripping. As the former football star (and a boxing pro in The Royale seen at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater,) Belcher has a tremendous physical presence. Masden is so articulate as the school principal that she elevates the debate to a high level of drama. Even if there are coincidences or sudden revelations that are hard to believe, this play that makes use of the themes of both the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements is cracklingly provocative theater. And like an excellent boxing match, director Vaughn has her actors come out ready to spar from the moment they enter the stage. [more]

The Royale

March 27, 2016

The staging is unusual in that no punches are thrown. When the actors are supposed to be delivering their blows, they stamp their feet which is actually more sinister and startling. The cast clap in unison to punctuate various dramatic moments. The ringside bell is live, delineating each of the six scenes, in Matt Hubbs’ sound design. During the fight scenes, the boxers face the audience and we hear what they are thinking moment by moment, rather than see their punches. Nick Vaughan’s set doubles beautifully as gym, boxing ring and locker room. During the first boxing match, ropes on a frame are moved around to give the audience different views of the ring. Austin R. Smith’s subtle lighting helps direct attention to the right spot throughout the play. All of this leads to a remarkable and memorable evening in the theater. [more]