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Hamptons Theater Review: The World Premiere Of "Safe Space" Earns A Standing Ovation At Bay Street

T.J. Clemente

Mercedes Ruehl and Rodney Richardson. (Photo: Lenny Stucker/ lennystucker.com)

Safe Space is the new play being presented at the Bay Street Theater Mainstage in Sag Harbor. The writing of this new play by Alan Fox is a window into the complicated world of political correctness. It stars Mercedes Ruehl, Sasha Diamond and Rodney Richardson.

On opening night the audience stood and applauded, understanding Safe Space is a special new and important play. Mercedes Ruehl, Rodney Richardson and Sasha Diamond are outstanding.

Once again, Bay Street's Artistic Director Scott Schwartz is to be commended on selecting a play that I feel is important because it is so relevant. There is no way one can watch this play and not feel the energy of the issues and complications of where our society is evolving concerning political correctness and appropriate behavior in the workplace, on college campuses and in everyday life.

What makes this Jack O'Brien directed play so powerful are the performances of the three stars; Rodney Richardson, who plays "Marcus," has a unique magnetism and dynamic that ignites the theater when he speaks and moves about the stage. Within the first few seconds of this play his talent was already shining. No doubt he has a bright future under the bright lights ahead of him.

Sasha Diamond, while portraying the student "Jenny," plays perhaps the most complicated role in the show. She brilliantly exposes the complexities and pressures of today's students while they tackle their futures in this new evolving politically correct universe that is taking over our culture. Her powerful performance made me feel a myriad of emotions during the show. Many times I felt uncomfortable because the writing of this play exposes the flaws within well-intended notions of doing the right thing and how complex that can be. This role has raw power and Sasha Diamond commanded that power effectively in a spellbinding array of movements, gestures along with her lines.

Mercedes Ruehl plays "Judith Rose," the college president in this swirling changing world that so many campuses across the U.S. are experiencing. Her character threads this complicated needle of what's right, what's practical and wrong in today's decision making at high levels. The appearance of Mercedes Ruehl in any production brings a gravitas of acting excellence. An actor of her stature enhances any production and even more so in this one. She effectively plays the agonizing force of decision makers. Through playwright Alan Fox's words Mercedes Ruehl opens the windows of closed-door meetings that run so many of our lives. I found Mercedes Ruehl's approach to this part ingenious because with her acting talents she effectively showed the fragile world even those at the top exist in. It was her performance in the end that brought the robust cheering crowd to their feet. Thus is her talent.

I must mention Bradley King, Lighting Design. In this production there is the most amazing rain scene I have ever witnessed on a stage anywhere ever. I kept looking for puddles on stage after watching the lighting effect rain fall it is the mastermind of a Jeff Sugg Projection - Design. Great job!

Safe Space can be seen until Sunday, July 21. This is a powerful play with important messages about so many important issues of the day. I recommend you take the time to go see it.

Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.

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