Friday, November 11, 2011

The Whipping Man

James Ijames,Cody Nickell ,Johnnie Hobbs Jr.

The Arden Theatre Company, located at 40 N 2nd Street, is producing The Whipping Man on its Arcadia stage through December 18. Playwright Matthew Lopez has achieved just the right amount of levity to balance an otherwise heavy set of circumstances. Filled with twists and turns and many surprises, The Whipping Man has the audience burst into laughter seconds after being socked in the face with dreadful truths. Cody Nickell portrays Caleb, the Jewish confederate soldier returning home from the Civil War. James IJames is John and Johnnie Hobbs Jr. is Simon, the two freed household slaves who have been raised Jewish in their master’s house. Lopez has written this retelling of the Passover story on several levels and the cast of three men are certainly up to the task of portraying it. The dialogue is gripping. Nickell gives a compelling performance of a forced amputee who later shows his anguish upon learning a secret disclosed by John. John gives a  credible performance of a young man with a big chip on his shoulder who dares anyone to knock it off. Hobbs Jr. is the master of mediation and the rock of patience  until he isn’t. Kudos must go to scenic designer David P Gordon. The circular staircase  with the broken banister looks as if it would have come right out of Tara had it been in better condition.  The chandelier gives the room an appearance of what might have been an elegant antebellum hall. Walls look battle-torn. Kudos must also go to Lighting Designer Thom Weaver. The 19th Century house is lit by candle light. Whenever the candles are lit, the lights get brighter on the stage; the timing is perfect .Lights flashing through windows simulate storms outside.  The production is further enhanced by the work of sound designer Christopher Colucci. Soulful music, screams of agony, explosions of gunfire all heighten the audience’s senses and add to the realism of the production. This is a must see for this theatre season. For tickets call 215-922-1122 or visit online at

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