New Unity Stage Co. debuts with prejudice-themed play

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Unity Stage Company, founded in the spring of 2009, opens the door for opportunities in theater, serving communities in western Queens. The 1922 play “Loyalties” by British writer John Galsworthy is the first professional production by the company.

“Loyalties” on the surface could be considered a traditional whodunit, but the plot’s overtones of anti-Semitism take the show to a deeper level, said Sofia Landon Geier, the founder and artistic director of the company, who also produced and directed this show. The themes of prejudice are indicative of major issues still relevant in today’s society.

“The dialogue is very realistic and it doesn’t feel like an old play,” Geier said. The audience wants to trust the characters, but no one can be sure who is telling the truth or what will come next. “You get to know the characters. When some of the more shocking things happen and it’s gut-wrenching, you really feel it.”

The story of “Loyalties” unfolds in a high-society house called Meldon Court after World War I, where a large sum of money goes missing from a wealthy Jewish man named Ferdinand De Levis. David Sedgwick and Celia Montgomery play Charles Winsor and Lady Adela, the seemingly cordial hosts. Both actors have strong chemistry together as they make the choice to save appearances over moral values.

Graciany Miranda plays Ferdinand De Levis with noticeable awkwardness but turns conniving and justice-seeking as the play unfolds. De Levis decides to accuse one of the other guests of stealing his money. The already guilty-looking Matt W. Cody plays the accused man, Capt. Ronald Dancy, with a question mark over his head from the very beginning.

The logic for accusing Captain Dancy makes sense, but still, the other guests of the house refuse to turn against him. Several members of the cast play multiple characters, with a standout performance by Ray Chao as Gilman, the grocer, whose skilled comedic timing adds a few laughs to a piece of the puzzle.

The cast performs the show in a back room of the closed-down Cassino Restaurant in Long Island City through Jan. 30.

“Loyalties” is an appropriate way to introduce Unity Stage Company to Queens, as the theme of being loyal meshes with the goals of the organization. Geier, a Sunnyside resident, believes there is a strong need for more theater opportunities in western Queens, where she has strong ties.

The choice to do “Loyalties” as their first show was personal to Geier in order to encourage diversity. She is also supportive of new talent. “We will be doing new works as well as works written by playwrights around the world on issues that as a company we feel strongly about — the issue of prejudice has always been a strong influence to me,” she said.

The company is looking for future members who are willing to pitch in and form supportive relationships with the team. A theater program for children that started last summer and full theatrical productions like “Loyalties” are only the beginning of what audiences can expect to see from Unity Stage Company.

“There will be at least two or more shows a year and we are looking for new voices, readings, radio, documentary type theater and film merging,” Geier said.

For more information about “Loyalties” and Unity Stage Company, visit www.unitystage.org.

Updated 5:44 pm, October 10, 2011
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