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Rousuck's Review: "Rachel," A 1916 Race Play Update, Still Rings True

(left-right) Kwame Shaka Opare, Valerie Lewis, and Zipporah Brown in Rapid Lemon's new adaptation of "Rachel" (Photo: Rapid Lemon Productions

It's time again for Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom today with her review of Rapid Lemon Productions' Rachel, a seminal, century-old play about racism that's been newly adapted for the stage by Baltimore playwright Aladrian C. Wetzel.

Rachel was written in 1916 by Angelina Weld Grimké, one of the luminaries of the so-called Harlem Renaissance. She penned it as an artistic retort to the 1915 release of director D.W. Griffith’s racist film, “Birth of a Nation”.

Originally titled “Blessed are the Barren”, the play tells the story of a Black woman who rejects marriage and motherhood after discovering a horrifying family secret. It was first produced in Washington, DC, by the NAACP, and published in 1920.

Ms. Wetzel's new adaptation is her second commissioned play for Rapid Lemon Productions, after 2019’s acclaimed Thank You, Dad.

Rapid Lemon's production of Rachel is being performed live on stage, and also live-streamed, through September 26th at Baltimore's Motor House, located at 120 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201. For ticketing information, click here.

J. Wynn Rousuck has been reviewing theater for WYPR's Midday (and previously, Maryland Morning) since 2007. Prior to that, she was the theater critic of The Baltimore Sun, where she reviewed more than 3,000 plays over the course of 23 years. Her feature coverage for The Sun included a comprehensive series chronicling the development of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” Judy got her start at The Cleveland Press and at Cleveland’s fine arts radio station, WCLV. Her broadcasting experience also includes a year as an on-air theater critic for Maryland Public Television.
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Rob is Midday's senior producer.