The dramatic substance in Ramirez’s “Royale” is just as powerful as the visceral style Harris brings to it. The play primarily concerns Jay’s quest to become heavyweight champion of the world by arranging to challenge the white boxer who holds the title. (The real Johnson’s match with Jim Jeffries was billed as “the fight of the century.”)
Black or white, Jay boasts, “It’s about being champion, period.” Sadly, however, in an era of Jim Crow-sanctioned racial inequality and injustice, that’s easier said than done. His admirable pursuit is wholly relatable in 2018 hindsight, of course, but it meets with fierce opposition circa 1910 — a dream that might be no more “important” than it is “dangerous,” not only in terms of personal death threats to Jay, but also the possible repercussions within black society at large.
“It’s a matter of precedent and history,” his (white) manager tries to suggest with a shrug. “Don’t take it personally.”
Cynthia D. Barker co-stars with Garrett Turner in “The Royale” at Theatrical Outfit. CONTRIBUTED BY CASEY GARDNER
The show is bolstered by the fairly galvanizing knockout performance of Garrett Turner, who tackles his starring role as the cocky and conscientious Jay with both a forceful physical agility and an intensified emotional validity. The formidable supporting cast includes veterans Brian Kurlander (as that well-meaning promoter) and Rob Cleveland (as Jay’s avuncular trainer), and newcomer Marlon Andrew Burnley (as his young sparring partner).
Midway through the 90-minute one-act, at first sight of the radiant Cynthia D. Barker (as Jay’s sensitive sister), you may simply welcome a quiet reprieve from all of the testosterone and machismo on display. Enjoy that while it lasts, because she ultimately returns to the ring, as it were, to factor significantly — indeed, gut-wrenchingly — in the play’s chilling, harrowing climax.
In its own (lyrical) fashion, the ending figuratively sings with the resounding impact of a full-fledged operatic aria, just without any literal music.
Through Nov. 4. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 11 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 18 only); 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 28 only); 7:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 29 only). $20.50-$49. Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatricaloutfit.org.
Bottom line: Packs an emotional wallop.
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Best October Festivals in Atlanta The fall festival season is at its peak in October. Here are some of the best festivals in Atlanta this month. Sweet Auburn Music Festival. Oct. 6-7 Taste of Atlanta. Oct. 19-21 Little 5 Points Halloween Parade & Festival. Oct. 20 Pumpkin Festival. From now until Oct. 28