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SoloChicago Theatre’s Production of "Churchill" at New World Stages Stars Ronald Keaton

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Shon 45 Wines & Spirits
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840 8th Ave (50th-51st)
New York, NY 10019

Mon - Thurs 10AM - 11PM
Fri - Sat 10AM - 11:30PM
Sun 12PM - 9PM

Wendy & William Spatz, Jason Epperson
and the Greenhouse Theater Center

SoloChicago Theatre’s production of

Adapted and Performed by
Ronald Keaton
Founding Director, SoloChicago Theatre

Based on the Life/Words of Winston S. Churchill
And Teleplay “Winston Churchill” by Dr. James C. Humes

Directed by Kurt Johns

New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
NY, NY 10019

Lighting and Scenic Design: Jason Epperson
Projection Design: Paul Deziel
Sound Design: Eric Backus
Production Stage Manager: Jason Shivers
Advertising & Marketing: The Pekoe Group
Press Representative: Jim Randolph
General Manager: Robert E. Schneider

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 19, 2015

I had the serendipitous pleasure, after the show, of meeting Ronald Keaton, solo actor in the new play, Churchill, at New World Stages, on the way out into this winter’s endless cold. Mr. Keaton comes to New York via his SoloChicago Theatre, formed to “advance theatre, one actor at a time”. This new one-actor show is by far the best I’ve seen in one-actor plays all season. Mr. Keaton is so riveting, I’m planning to see the play again, because there’s so much riveting detail built into his script. Mr. Keaton “adapted” the script from Churchill’s “life and words” and the teleplay by Dr. James C. Humes. I can assure all readers that Mr. Keaton has been thorough and demanding of himself. He takes no time off for breathing space, and no improvisation or ho-hum moments occur. In fact, unlike most one-actor plays, there’s an intermission, so the audience has two full acts of historical heft to experience, not only in dramatic monologues, but also in mesmerizing projections, beyond Jason Epperson’s windowed set.

Churchill is apparently in Missouri, addressing an American audience, about his fascinating life as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for two separate terms, his political leadership in the Parliament, his various positions as Defense Minister, Secretaries of State, and in a multitude of additional, eminent roles in the administration of the United Kingdom at war and at peace. Mr. Keaton keeps the interest peaked, with anecdotes about his Brooklyn-born mother, his aristocratic father and militaristic upbringing, his adored nanny, his battle with an early speech impediment, his love of his dedicated wife, Clementine, and his role as a father, as he improves on his own father’s lack of paternal closeness. Soon Mr. Keaton moves on, with amazingly sharp momentum and memory, to Churchill’s numerous military exploits and the tribulations of politics. Mr. Keaton leaves out nothing, synthesizing decades of international wars. He espouses on Churchill’s relationships with General Eisenhower and President Roosevelt in World War II, with wonderful tales of both American leaders. He praises Truman, who has invited Churchill to speak, in 1946, at Westminster College, where he delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech. Tonight’s play was apparently set in 1946, speaking to an audience of students and professors at Westminster, with the iron-trimmed, cathedral-styled windows and dark wood, stage set. There’s even an easel, as Churchill explains what he loves about painting landscapes.

Kurt Johns has marvelously directed this play to keep Mr. Keaton moving, for all eyes to be close and connected to his solo conversation. And, that conversation is always dynamic, comic at times, poignant at times, and emotionally emanating from the character. Jason Epperson’s set is strongly proportioned, to give the viewer a sense of entering the room. Eric Backus’ sound is crisp, and Mr. Epperson’s lighting shifts for interest. But, the element most critical to the production’s success, beyond Mr. Keaton’s astounding presentation, is Paul Deziel’s series of projections, which constantly illustrates, on some level, Churchill’s informative and interesting conversation. There are old black-white photos of Churchill’s mother, father, wife, related historical war photos, those of Parliament, race horses, and dozens more. Ronald Keaton is energized, entertaining and eloquent. In absorbing, seamless conversation, Mr. Keaton exudes poise, pride, and pathos. I recommend seeing Churchill twice, once for the informative gestalt and the acting dynamic, and once to listen for additional details of the life of such a powerful and charismatic leader. Kudos to Ronald Keaton and SoloChicago Theatre.

RONALD KEATON as Winston Churchill
in "CHURCHILL" at New World Stages
Courtesy of Jason Epperson

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at