Invisible Man, Studio Theatre

Washington, D.C.
September 5, 2012 – October 28, 2012

Adapted for the Stage by Oren Jacoby
Based on the Novel by Ralph Ellison
Directed by Christopher McElroen
Roles: Preacher, Big Halley, Bledsoe, Brockway, Old Man, Brother Wrestrum, Barrelhouse, and Ensemble

As Big Halley, warning Invisible Man not to bring Mr. Norton into his establishment (PHOTO: Astrid Reiken)

As Bledsoe, ensuring a bad future for Invisible Man (PHOTO: Astrid Reiken)

As Bledsoe with Invisible Man (Teagle F. Bougere), who celebrates his fall from grace (PHOTO: Astrid Reiken)

Critical Response

“A delightful confection of a strong ensemble cast (let by the extraordinarily talented Teagle F. Bougere), a strong script, and stunning production elements make this show a must-see. . . . The ensemble acting in this piece—with contributions from McKinley Belcher III, Brian D. Coats, Johnny Lee Davenport, De’Lon Grant, Edward James Hyland, Joy Jones, Jeremiah Kissel, Deidra LaWan Starnes, and Julia Watt—is noteworthy. There are no weak links within the cast and all make a concerted effort to work together, in an understated way, to create the Invisible Man’s World.”
—Jennifer Perry, BroadwayWorld.com (September 10, 2012)

“Bougere is ably supported by some of the finest actors in this region and beyond: Johnny Lee Davenport as Dr. Bledsoe portrays mannerisms depicted in the novel with a mesmerizing performance. In the novel, Bledsoe ‘fixes his face’ like a malleable mask to grin on cue and Davenport’s leer is a sight to behold.  Bledsoe, and yes, the name reels with interpretive significance, provides some of earliest glimpses of Ellison’s warrior wit as he reprimands the young man who has the ‘mistaken belief that knowledge brings dignity’ and ‘you don’t have to be a simple fool to succeed.’”
Debbie Jackson, DC Theatre Scene (September 12, 2012)

The ensemble cast of nine does an incredible job with what they are given, and they stay busy with wardrobe changes performing multiple roles, 3-4 characters per actor. There is not a weak link among them. It’s the Invisible Man’s story, but there are standout moments by Edward James Hyland (Mr. Norton) and Johnny Lee Davenport (Bledsoe) who make the most of their stage moments, as they are stunning.”
Sydney-Chanel Dawkins, DC Metro Theater Arts (September 12, 2012)

“The extraordinary stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s seminal 1952 novel Invisible Man never wholly shakes off its literary roots in the three hours it inhabits the stage at Studio Theatre. Yet what a transporting three hours, all the same.
sssssActed by a sterling ten-person ensemble—nine of them veritable chameleons who disappear into multiple roles—the cast doesn’t have a weak link, some assaying wildly different personas in the course of a few minutes. They are, in addition to Bougere and Belcher, Brian D. Coats, Johnny Lee Davenport, De’Lon Grant, Edward James Hyland, Joy Jones, Jeremiah Kissel, Deidra LaWan Starnes, and Julia Watt. They all deserve applause.”
Jane Horwitz, Washingtonian (September 12, 2012)

“Studio Theatre’s production of Oren Jacoby’s adaptation of Invisible Man, I’m thrilled to say, succeeds brilliantly. . . . Mr. Bougere’s performance in this production is exquisite, as he strikes all the right notes at just the right time. . . . Even though this production had fantastic visual elements there is no doubt that the acting ensemble carried the day, providing us with a host of rich characters, sometimes symbolically significant, at other times individually unique.  Joining Mr. Bougere in Invisible Man are McKinley Belcher III, Brian D. Coats, Johnny Lee Davenport, De’Lon Grant, Edward James Hyland, Joy Jones, Jeremiah Kissel, Deidra LaWan Starnes, and Julia Watt; and there literally is not a blemish among them.  Each plays three or more characters, and each gives his or her various characters their unique yet identifiable stamp, allowing the audience to immediately gain insight into who they are.”
Robert Michael Oliver, Maryland Theatre Guide (September 12, 2012)

“Once off at college, [Invisible Man is] asked to chauffeur a gentler white benefactor (Edward James Hyland), in a jaunt that ends so disastrously that the young man is unfairly expelled and his reputation besmirched by the self-serving college president (Johnny Lee Davenport).
sssssThe nine actors in Bougere’s sterling orbit expertly fulfill their appointed missions. Especially strong are Davenport, as the craven college president; Jeremiah Kissel, as a mild-mannered New York businessman, sympathetic to the young man’s struggle, and Deidra LaWan Starnes, playing a bighearted Harlem dweller who takes the young man in, as he’s absorbed into the city’s turbulent politics.”
Peter Marks, The Washington Post (September 13, 2012)

“Just saw Invisible Man at the Studio Theater—great acting for a timeless story by Ralph Ellison.”
Marion Barry on Twitter (September 14, 2012)

Ten actors play more 25 named characters in Invisible Man, plus ensemble roles. They are a hardworking, sweaty mass of thespians.”
Rebecca J. Ritzel, Washington City Paper (September 14, 2012)

“The production is in the capable hands of an experienced 10-member ensemble and phenomenal behind-the-scenes staff. . . .The play centers on an optimistic young man . . . (the fantastic Teagle F. Bougere) [and] combines beautiful poetry with fast-paced violence and flinch-inducing racial slurs. . . . When Invisible Man orders whiskey at a black bar for an absent white college trustee, Mr. Norton, (Edward James Hyland) the bartender (Johnny Lee Davenport) urges Invisible Man to bring him inside. “Tell him we don’t Jim Crow nobody,” he says. Davenport and Hyland, along with the rest of the cast except Bougere, each play at least three characters. . . . A light-hearted scene sure to strike a chord with recent graduates and weathered professionals alike occurs in the second act. Invisible Man pounds the pavement for a temporary job, a smart briefcase and letter of introduction from College President Bledsoe (the intimidating Davenport) in hand.”
—Megan Kuhn, Baltimore Post Examiner (September 15, 2012)

“[Invisible Man] is summoned by the evil president of the college, Bledsoe (Johnny Lee Davenport), who betrays the hero’s dreams and sends him to New York with what are supposed to be letters of recommendation.
sssssAlthough there are many people in the Invisible Man’s life, they are portrayed by only 10 actors. These superbly talented performers form a tightly knit ensemble, portraying characters from the South and from Harlem, providing enemies and community for the hero.”
Barbara Mackay, Washington Examiner (September 16, 2012)

“The action and the scenes, set in the Deep South and in New York, all move with as much grace as the words on the page, including the way the nine superb actors interact with one another, or linger on the sidelines and even out into the audience.”
Doug Rule, MetroWeekly (September 20, 2012)

“The production is haunting, even beautiful. Bougere is passionate—at turns distant and feverish—as the nameless, invisible man. The staging is stunning. The rest of the cast leave indelible impressions.
Gary Tischler, The Georgetowner (September 24, 2012)

“Dramatic, this show has first-rate acting, led by Bougere as the Invisible Man, Belcher as Trueblood and Ras, Davenport as Bledsoe, Kissle as Brother Jack, and Starnes as Kate.”
True Theatergoer Blog (September 29, 2012)

Deanna K | October 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Invisible Man was a well-done emotional production. From start to finish the cast effectively brings the voices and attitudes of the characters to life.
sssssatirpak | October 2, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Invisible Man performed at the Studio Theater is by far my favorite production that I have had the pleasure to view in DC. The acting was outstanding and the script was enlightening in an entertaining way.
ssssskayfoust | October 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm | I really enjoyed the Sunday preview of Invisible Man at The Studio Theatre . . .the acting was impeccable.
sssssKerry Nixon | October 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Invisible Man was a powerful and engaging show. The set was truly a work of art in and of itself. The dynamic way that the “fixtures” emphasized and accented the widely wandering narrative was a feat to be appreciated. The ensemble was equally dynamic in their ability to take on a multitude of different characters throughout the play. The three hours passed by more pleasantly than some two-hour productions, and I was left with a great appreciation for the endurance and skill of the players. I was rather surprised to read the lackluster review of the show in The New Yorker. I do not agree that the theatrical adaptation was reduced to “either being angry or singing the blues.” Actually, I thought that the haunting stories retold by ‘the invisible man’ were an exercise in exploring the complexity of and difficult intersections between race, power, identity, behavior, community and the psychological unfolding of a person located within these nexus points. Certainly, as with all adaptations from novels, there must be a selection of material. Necessarily the entire book cannot, nor should it, be included into a dramatic production. The impactful, and moving performance I experienced led me to believe that this is a successful adaptation.”
Posted by Ari Roth, The Theater J Blog (September 30, 2012)

“Presented in a multi-media format, the ten actors and actresses (most playing more than one role) bring the book to life.”
—Posted by Richard, MillersTime (October 8, 2012)

Johnny Lee Davenport deserves noting, especially in his role as Doctor Bledsoe. While the character only appears at the very beginning of the play, his ability to portray a corrupt, charming, smug, Uncle Tom who ironically is more powerful than his ‘masters’ was astounding. Mr. Davenport, also understands the twisted majesty of the character as well playing him with a sense of royal entitlement to his college rather than a sense of insecurity.”
Max Young-Jones, Thespian’s Theater Thoughts (October 24, 2012)

The collective performance by this cast was breathtaking. It’s not just me—the players received a standing ovation. The strong cast featured inspiring performances by the excellent and soulful Johnny Lee Davenport (Preacher, Bledsoe, Brockway, Ensemble); the outstanding Jeremiah Kissel (MC, Emerson Jr., Brother Jack, Ensemble); McKinley Belcher III (Trueblood, Ras, Ensemble); Brian D.Coats (Grandfather, Burnside, Peter Wheatstraw, Ensemble), and the incomparable Joy Jones (Slave Girl, Mattie-Lou, Old Woman, Ensemble).”
William Powell, DC Actors Examiner (October 25, 2012)

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