Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Florida Studio Theatre

Montae Russell
Currently on the boards of Florida Studio Theatre's Keating Theater is George Stevens, Jr.'s bio play Thurgood, with a riveting performance by Montae Russell. Thurgood Marshall, first black Supreme Court Justice, lived a fascinating life, from his upbringing in segregated Baltimore through law school at Howard University (because the University of Maryland law school was segregated) and into the most important legal battles of the Civil Rights era. He ended a distinguished career by serving for 24 years as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. George Stevens does not present this life in a showy manner, but the story in and of itself is fascinating enough to hold the audience's attention. The setup is that the retired Justice is speaking at his alma mater, Howard University, and relates the story of his life.

Montae Russell plays Justice Marshall with great dignity. One of the highest compliments that I can pay him is that I could understand every word of the script, so clearly and mellifluously was it presented. Occasionally he is called upon to briefly portray someone else who was part of Marshall's life, such as law professor and mentor Charles Hamilton Houston, but it is not an important facet of this performance. Mr. Russell captures the inner conviction of this great man. He reaches the end of the play standing center stage looking away from the audience, then turns, briefly, to give one bow and exits. This is Montae Russell's second production as Thurgood Marshall, having played the role earlier at Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Kate Alexander as director has helped Mr. Russell shape his fine performance. All the other technical aspects of the production are effective. The slides used to show us people and places in the story get the job done.

Sarasota audiences will want to see Thurgood because of the outstanding performance by Montae Russell in the title role.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Thurgood through February 16, 2014, at the Keating Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit

Directed by Kate Alexander
Costume Designer: Susan Angermann
Lighting Designer: Dave Upton
Scenic Designer: Bruce Price
Stage Manager: Garry Allan Breul*
Production Stage Manager: Kelli Karen*
*Member of Actor's Equity Association

Photo: Michael Henninger, courtesy of Florida Studio Theatre

--William S. Oser

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