Pawtucket’s Mixed Magic Theatre opens 2017-2018 season with ‘The Slave’

Pawtucket’s Mixed Magic Theatre opens 2017-2018 season with ‘The Slave’

Starring in Mixed Magic Theatre’s “The Slave” are, from left, Fredrick Douglas, Melanie Stone, and Terry Shea.

PAWTUCKET – The whir of helicopters, punctuated by gunshots and explosions, and the faint cries of a young child – these are the sounds that introduce the audience to “The Slave,” as presented by Pawtucket’s Mixed Magic Theatre.

Starring Fredrick Douglas, Melanie Stone, and Terry Shea, Mixed Magic’s presentation of “The Slave” is a brief single-act play directed by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, a founder of the performance company. A companion piece to playwright Amira Bakara’s most widely celebrated work, “Dutchman,” “The Slave” examines tensions between blacks and whites in 1960s America.

“When we chose this play, we felt it was more relevant today than more than 50 years ago when it was written,” said Pitts-Wiley in a question and answer opportunity following the performance. “Time caught up with the play.”

Following the barrage of war sounds, “The Slave” plays out in a ravaged urban apartment, ostensibly from the ongoing racial conflict just outside, and begins with an intense monologue by Walker Vessels (Douglas), establishing the themes for the one-act play. Vessels, a black man, has broken into the home of his ex-wife, Grace Easley (Stone) and her new husband, Brad Easley (Shea), both of whom are white. As Grace and Brad Easley enter their house, they are surprised to find an armed Vessels, who has established himself as a leader of the Black Liberation Movement, in their living room.

Effectively held hostage by Vessels, Grace and Brad Easley engage in spirited and aggressive debate with their captor about racial tension, the philosophy of politics, and the ugliness of love, relationships, and the fundamental differences between oppressors and the oppressed. Intense dialogue filled with colorful language effectively makes the audience uncomfortable, seemingly by design, to illustrate the nastiness of the times.

The play juxtaposes intellectualism against brute force, and highlights the failure of intellectuals to take action in the conflict – leading to a necessity for violence and physical conflict. Portraying the racial tensions as a literal war occurring just outside the apartment door, Mixed Magic’s presentation of “The Slave” raised the stakes of racial conflict and fundamentally established the three characters as arbiters of righteousness.

Mixed Magic Theatre, located at 560 Mineral Spring Ave., in Pawtucket, selected “The Slave” to run in repertory with “Dutchman” within the company’s two newly renovated performance spaces to open its 2017-18 season. Additional performances of “The Slave” will take place this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24-25, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. A special industry night twin bill performance of both plays will occur on Monday, Nov. 27, at 6:30 p.m.

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