Broadway's Ohio State Murders recently revealed it would close early, playing its final performance at the James Earl Jones Theatre January 15 instead of February 12 as originally announced. In the wake of this news, the production's star, six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, has spoken out on Instagram.
"I've never been more proud to be a part of a production than I am being a part of Ohio State Murders," says McDonald in the video posted January 8. "Adrienne Kennedy's work deserves to be on Broadway. I'm glad we got here. More of her work deserves to be produced commercially, and hopefully this will be the beginning of more and more awareness about who Adrienne Kennedy is, how incredible and poetic and profound and raw and revolutionary her work is. And that there needs to be more work out there centering Black women by Black women in the way that Adrienne has been doing for 70 years."
Ohio State Murders is one of Kennedy's four "Alexander Plays," all of which center around the character of writer Suzanne Alexander, a pseudo stand-in for Kennedy herself. In this entry, Suzanne is invited to give a lecture at her alma mater on the topic of the themes of violence in her writing. She explains their origins by sharing a painful and disturbing story from her time as a young student at the predominately white institution when an interracial relationship led to violence.
The play, which premiered at Cleveland's Great Lakes Theater Festival in 1992, gave 91 year-old Kennedy her Broadway debut this year, one many see as long overdue. Kennedy has been a powerhouse figure in the American theatre since she burst onto the scene in 1964 with Funnyhouse of a Negro. A number of Obie Awards and inclusion in the Theater Hall of Fame are among her many accolades, and she’s considered a touchstone for those who love avant-garde storytelling and bracing explorations of race in America.
McDonald, who leads the cast as Suzanne Alexander, is joined by Bryce Pinkham as Robert Hampshire, Lizan Mitchell as Mrs. Tyler/Miss Dawson/Aunt Louise, Mister Fitzgerald as David Alexander/Val, and Abigail Stephenson as Iris Ann. Rounding out the company as understudies are Christian Pedersen, Gayle Samuels, Brett Diggs, and Brooke Gardner.
Tony winner Kenny Leon is at the helm for the work's Broadway bow, leading a creative team that includes scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes, costume designer Dede Ayite, sound designer Justin Ellington, and projection designer Jeff Sugg. Wigs, hair, and make-up design are by J. Jared Janas, and original music is by Dwight Andrews. The production has been cast by Caparelliotis Casting. Samantha Watson is production stage manager.