Nemuna Ceesay & Shane Kenyon in rehearsal for Loving and Loving. Photo Credit: Yunier Ramirez and Actors Theatre of Louisville

Loving and Loving

Written by Beto O’Byrne
Developed by Meropi Peponides
Directed by Amelia Acosta Powell

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Mildred and Richard were in love. Growing up in the same town in Virginia, they happened to attend the same dance and begin their courtship. However, these lovebirds were met with cruelty and hardship because Mildred was black, Richard was white and it was 1958. In the era of the Civil Rights movement, this mixed-race couple fought for their marriage, family, and change for all those who exist “in the space in between.” Actors Theater of Louisville has staged an up close and personal take on the struggles and milestones that made up the groundbreaking court case that was Loving vs Virginia.

An on-stage documentary of sorts, Morgan Anita Wood guides the story as Maya, an investigative scholar who takes a deep dive into the Lovings’ story while reflecting on her own lived experience. Wood brings lots of curiosity and profound introspection to Maya’s journey. By bluntly asking interview questions to participants about their experience with race identity, Wood’s performance is a lesson in self-discovery and growth. Her questions about finding home in a binary world of race and more plainly “How do you explain being mixed” create a thought-provoking tone, one of the questions often asked but never answered.

These interview segments are presented between pivotal scenes from the Lovings’s life. Nemuna Ceesay and Shane Kenyon are perfect together as Mildred and Richard. Ceesay and Kenyon’s chemistry is palpable with each slow dance to Sam Cooke. The two actors play off each other well in moments of great tension involving prison sentences and run-ins with police officials. As a pair, Ceesay and Kenyon are unwavering in their love for one another. A love that only grows stronger with their desire for change in a time of civil unrest.

The Loving’s story seems almost preposterous in today’s climate. And yet, a story of a multi-race couple who were found guilty for their love almost seems right at home in 2024. As Mildred and Richard are found guilty of “interracial marriage” in Virginia in 1965, they are forced into exile for 25 years. A sentence they were later relieved from. Mildred and Richard’s time in exile provides for imaginative staging that reflects the long periods of waiting, emotional reactions to shocking assassinations that changed the course of history, and tensions faced by the couple, both large and small. Movements are repeated as famous speeches are played while the Loving family grows. The use of space is simple yet effective for this historic love story.

Loving and Loving is simply a love story. It shows the love between two people of different races and how much it changed society. Under the influence of Mildred and Richard’s story, we all can celebrate and love their journey to self-acceptance. 

Featuring Nemuna Ceesay, Shane Kenyon, & Morgan Anita Wood

Loving and Loving

February 7-18, 2024

ASL Interpreted & Closed Captioned Performance: Sunday, February 11 at 2 pm

Actors Theater of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!