I took in “Freed,” Charles Smith’s fact-based telling of the story of John Newton Templeton, the first black man to attend Ohio University, at 59E59 Theaters last week.
Penguin Rep audiences know the show as “Free Man of Color,” part of last year’s unforgettable season.
It’s a triangle of interests: Templeton, Ohio University President Robert Wilson, and Wilson’s wife, Jane.
Penguin’s founding artistic director and plenipotentiary Joe Brancato directs and Joe Egan’s set makes a seamless transfer. Sheldon Best, so memorable as Templeton in Stony Point, reprises his role. Christopher McCann plays Wilson; Emma O’Donnell is Jane Wilson.
“Freed” is still an excellent treatise on being first, on breaking new ground. It also plumbs a deeper discussion of those not permitted to be first. Jane Wilson, the president’s wife, watches as Templeton, a former slave, is given entrance into the university into which she may not, as a woman, set foot.
Thought-provoking stuff, to be sure. And what a treat to know that before New York audiences saw it, “Freed” got on its feet in Stony Point.
“Freed” runs in a limited engagement through July 3. The performance schedule is 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 members). 212-279-4200 or purchase online.
Meanwhile, Penguin is putting the finishing touches on “Shooting Star,” a two-hander about long-ago lovers starring Broadway stars Karen Ziemba (“Contact,” “Curtains”) and Gregg Edelman (“Into the Woods,” “1776”). In interviewed them last week and will have that story up before too long. Steven Dietz’s “Shooting Star” — directed by Brancato — runs July 9 through Aug. 1.
Photo by John Quilty: The cast of Penguin Rep’s production of “Freed” at 59E59 Theaters is, from left,: Sheldon Best (John Newton Templeton), Christopher McCann (Robert Wilson), Emma O’Donnell (Jane Wilson).