Sunday, November 27, 2022

Ohio State Murders

Adrienne Kennedy is currently making her Broadway debut with Ohio State Murders, thanks to the star power of Audra McDonald, who plays the lead in this not-quite-one-person play.

McDonald also helped another great American playwright, Lanie Robertson, make it to Broadway when she starred in another not-quite-one-person play, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. It's a reminder of how consequential stars can be, and how McDonald has used her influence to bring deserving plays to the boards.

Ohio State Murders also benefits from the direction of Kenny Leon, who has scored hits recently with his productions of Much Ado About Nothing and A Soldier's Play. Leon thrives when given quirky characters who behave in odd ways. He gives us just enough to have a glimpse at a character's hidden turmoil without having his performers rant and rail.

That approach is necessary for Ohio State Murders, which portrays a writer names Suzanne Alexander returning to her alma mater of Ohio State to give a speech about why there is so much violent imagery in her work. The reason, it turns out, has to do with certain events that happened on campus decades ago when she was a student. McDonald plays Alexander both as the idealistic young student and as the wary older author, but in both the past and present scenes, she holds everything together, and doesn't give way to waves of pain, grief, or vengeance.

Leon's directing approach also works for Bryce Pinkham, famous for his comic role in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, but playing a much more somber part in Kennedy's play. As Robert Hampshire, a lecturer at Ohio State who barely speaks when he's not lecturing, he is a constant enigma. Never at ease, either with others or with himself, he keeps both Alexander and the audience guessing as to his true intentions.

The production also boasts a magnificent set designed by Beowulf Boritt, showing suspended library bookcases, a deep chasm, and whirls of snow that all contribute to the play's effect. This is a production you won't want to miss, so go see it now!