Trinity Rep’s “Ragtime” Raw, Pounding, Compelling Theater



With so many parallels to today: racial discord, class distinction, prejudice, waves of immigrants coming to "make it” in America,  rapacious businessmen, police brutality, and the murder of a black man by police, “Ragtime” surges with incredible energy, with music and story lines so dense one could hardly untangle them.

Rebecca Gibel as Evelyn Nesbit

In a smashing production of the musical, pared down from Broadway for the theater in the round of Trinity Rep, the gifted company created a surging social history of the early 1900’s, with “guest appearances” —or theatrical punctuation—  by the celebrities of that day: Evelyn Nesbit, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini and Booker T. Washington, and the individual dramas became even more compelling and poignant.

Charlie Thurston &  Olivia Miller as Jewish immigrants

Beginning with a comfortable white family in New Rochelle, New York, the boundaries are shattered when the husband (Mauro Hantman) goes on an Arctic voyage, leaving his wife, Mother (Rachel Warren) and teen-age son (Evan Andrew Horwitz) alone.  When Mother finds an abandoned black child in her garden, cares for it and takes in its mother Sarah (Mia Ellis), things get complicated.  The talented musician Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Wilkie Ferguson III),  who has known nothing of his child, comes to redeem it and Sarah. A bond is forged. But it is 1906 (even though the skin tight jeans on the actors seem to say otherwise).  Soon the audience was introduced to an immigrant father ( Charlie Thurston) and daughter (Olivia Miller) from Latvia, coming to America to “make it” with his artistic talent.  (They do).  With wonderful voices and flawless acting,  the devoted pair caught the emotions of the audience.

Soon Coalhouse has a car, takes his wife and baby riding, and when it is stopped and destroyed by policemen (after his wife has been previously beaten to death by them), who write “Nigger” on the wreck, it causes him to retaliate, with awful consequences.


J.P. Morgan meets Henry Ford

The period costumes of Act II and its straightforward book brought together all the strings of the complex plot, and the theater piece's denouement.


Notable were Janice Duclos as Emma Goldman, Rebecca Gibel as Evelyn Nesbit, Fred Sullivan as J.P. Morgan, and the entire ensemble cast.


The music by Stephen Flaherty?  Wonderfully played, and echoing  Scott Joplin.  The acting? Superb.  The set? Odd, with brown tables and chairs and a scaffolding-style staircase,  but made to work. The directing by Curt Columbus?  Amazing.

In this paean to the melting pot that was America, Trinity Rep once again showed its versatility and  talent. Bravo, Bravissimo!

                                                —Linda Phillips                                                             

Ragtime” runs through May 27 at Trinity Rep, 201 Washington St.. Tickets start at $25. Call (401) 351-4242, or visit












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