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I? 1 ? ? 11 AT. 111. /? i M B I
. The talented ensemble
t cast opulently adorned
? by costume designer
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Wake Forest -
I The MainStage
I ' H
I Tues, Aug. 4 3 p.m.
Tues, Aug. 4 8 p.m.
I Wed, Aug. 5 3 p.m.
I Wed, Aug. 5 8 p.m.
u f | < he Magnificent Dunbar Hotel" is as grand as its title. A talented cast of
20 makes this smart, lavish and stylish show an unforgettable theater
Los Angeles-based The Robey Theater Company commissioned acclaimed
playwright Levy Lee Simon to pen "Dunbar;" the production is based on the real
Central Avenue Los Angeles landmark that was the home away from home for the
black rich and famous in the '30s and '40s. Many of those luminaries - including
Lena Home, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois - are in
Simon's tale, which is deeply rooted in historical facts.
The Dunbar Hotel - which is named for famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose
spirit provides narration and even bits of verse throughout the show - is the star of
the show. Its grandness is a source of great pride for the black community, and its
owner, Lucius Lomax, and his wife, Minnie, are luminaries in the neighborhood.
Outside its walls, Los Angeles is not a kind town to blacks. Segregation,
bigoted cops and even Ku Klux Klansmen abound. The Lomaxes, their
staff and guests confront those external issues and many internal ones as
well, including love, faith, pain and struggle. There are impressive visual effects and
music, too, including a dynamic rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown" delivered by
feuding divas Home (Tiffany Coty) and Waters (Elizabeth June).
All of the action plays out on a beautiful Micheal D. Ricks-created set and takes place
over the course of seven decades. The audience sees how The Dunbar is affected by
events that shaped the 20th century, including World War II, integration - which
mainly caused the hotel's undoing as black guests flocked to white establishments that
had previously barred them - and the drug war of the '80s that had a detrimental effect
on black communities throughout the nation.
The play's world premiere in November 2014 garnered acclaim from critics.
"Informative and engaging, this underappreciated chapter of our local history is
portrayed with panache and grace," the Los Angeles Times proclaimed. Blogger Joe
Straw raved that the play "is a wonderful
historical time capsule, opened in
a theatrical setting, giving startling
revelations of stories and events of famous
people in fleeting moments of time."
Ben Guillory, who is familiar to movie fans for his role as Grady (Shug Avery's
husband) in "The Color Purple," directs. Guillory co-founded The Robey
(named for Paul Robeson) 20 years ago with actor Danny Glover and serves
as its artistic director. The cast also includes Jovan Adepo, Vanoy Burnough,
Cydney Wayne Davis, Eddie Goines, Julio Hanson, Tommy Hicks, Doug
Jewell, Melvin Ishmael Johnson, Kyle Connor McDuffie, Jason Mimms,
Ashlee Olivia, Dwain A. Perry, Vanja Renee, Kem Saunders, Jah Shams, Petal d'Avril
Walker, Sammie Wayne IV and Rhonda Stubbins White. ?
Ethel Waters (Elizabeth June) and
Lena Home (Tiffany Coty) perform.