While Macbeth’s transformation starts off gradually in Waters’ production, Lady Macbeth, played by Jessica Frances Dukes, emerges with bold ambition. But her determination discernibly wavers long before she goes mad. Dukes infuses nuance into her Lady, the only woman (not counting the witches) in the room. She carries a kind of sorrow that is expressed in her first scene when she demands spirits to “unsex me here.”
That desire – to not be a woman – reverberates in Dukes’ performance of this smart being who is largely ignored – despite her intelligence – because she is a woman. Dukes’ Lady is trapped and, when Macbeth’s own ambition takes over, she is thrown off like an old blanket.
Ashbury park press.
But Macbeth is nothing without an equally powerful Lady Macbeth, and Jessica Frances Dukes’ is every bit Garman’s match. She casually dominates her early scenes, running roughshod over her Thane, and more than once bending him to her will with raw sex appeal. Waters gives Dukes the space to do some acting outside of her lines, giving a near gibbering quality to the aforementioned “out damned spot” speech, and a tableaux to end that first act where we pretty much see Lady Mac actively lose her mind. It’s a show stopping moment that led the younger end of the crowd to burst into wild applause at the act break.
As Macbeth is a very well known property, I will skip the plot and get right to performances. For me personally, this is Jessica Fances Dukes world, and we’re all living in it. From her first entrance, she commands the stage with vast power and charisma, and we as the audience are treated to a wonderfully crafted path to Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness. She is given a particularly juicy moment at the end of the first act. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but with no worlds at all, Jessica’s actions bring an entire audience to The Edge of their seats and end’s the act with rapturous applause. Andrew Garman as our title character is every bit her worthy equal. He plays the seemingly put together Macbeth very well, but it’s when we see his dark side that he really truly shines. The rest of the wonderful company were delightful as well, but I would be lying if I said the performances of Dukes and Garman weren’t what makes this production a “must see”.
Jessica Frances Dukes, new to Actors, was exquisite as the calculating Lady Macbeth. One thing that struck me, perhaps unintentionally, in this production was the couple’s childlessness. Somehow Dukes and Waters brought that to the fore in this production, which makes Lady M’s “we’re gonna get what we’re due” motivation even more palpable. Her pre-intermission exit, in other hands, could have come off as a cliche, but was so powerful and so gripped the audience, I half expected a standing ovation.
DETROIT 67 REVIEWS
There’s one additional comedic character name “Bunny” who is Chelle’s best friend and offers great comedic relief as she enters with huge gold earrings, high heels, and a one piece jump suit.”
“The play has much to absorb. And thanks to a superb cast brings it home. Amari Cheatom plays Lank (like in Langston Hughes), Jessica Frances Dukes (an Obie Award-winner) plays the sexpot and funny Bunny”
“The compact 5-person cast is capable, charming and committed. Jessica Frances Duke as vivacious, bootylicious Bunny even manages to bring a bit of depth to an otherwise undimensioned comic foil role.”
“periodically peak moments of comic relief outstandingly offered by Jessica Frances Dukes’ sassy Bunny”
“But the real standout is Jessica Frances Dukes as Bunny, a family friend who flits in and out of basement and steals the show with her sexy, larger-than-life performance, and costume designer Dede Ayite’s pitch-perfect pantsuits.”
“the vivacious Bunny (Jessica Frances Dukes)”
“Dukes, sporting deliciously off-the-charts ’60s fashions (Dede Ayite’s costumes are terrific), eats up the stage with every appearance. Bunny, a mix of sex-kittenish and worldly wise, may be all too formulaic a character, but Dukes makes her real, right down to every sensual shake — when she puts her backfield in motion, no one is safe”.
“Jessica Frances Dukes as Bunny steals the show with her vibrant costumes and personality that fills the whole theatre. She is a free spirit who brings smiles to everyone she meets. Her true shining moment comes when Chelle feels like her life is crashing down around her. With wisdom and tenderness, Bunny comes through as the steadfast friend.”
-Maryland theatre guide
“Her Chelle is the show’s anchor, a strong and perpetually grounded woman who stands in sharp contrast to her funky, booty-shaking best friend, Bunny (Jessica Frances Duke), a character who provides some welcome comic relief. It’s worth noting that despite the serious content, “Detroit ’67” is also consistently funny, thanks in large part to the chemistry between the actors, who have had time to make these roles their own.”
-Detroit Free Press
VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA ANF SPIKE REVIEWS
And Dukes as Cassandra is unquestionably hysterical. Her physical, sweeping prophecies and Greek monologues are the highlight, and she looks like she’s loving it.
Dukes is one of Washington’s most capable actresses, and this play allows her to show her range. As Cassandra, the doomsday prophet, she speaks in deep-throated, Greek-tragedy mode, spiking the air with her long, brightly polished nails and flipping her long dreadlocks from side to side.
Jessica Frances-Dukes fills out the cast, playing fortune teller and cleaning lady Cassandra and, frankly, carries the comedy of the play from start to finish. Dukes’ Cassandra is refreshing because she knows who she is and she dollops real-world sense into the neurotic world of the title characters. I wish she could have been given more character depth from the script though; the potential of the character seems wasted on stereotype. Speaking of which, what does it say about the American theater that, in our most popular play, the only character of color is an African-American voodoo-practicing cleaning lady? I think it says that we have a long way to go and that perhaps majority White and upper-class audiences should have a long think about why they are laughing.
DC theatre scene
Cassandra-like housekeeper, Cassandra (Jessica Frances Dukes, flinging tremendous braids and jangling bracelets while spouting elaborate speeches worthy of Greek drama).
Jessica Frances Dukes as Cassandra is one of the highlights of the show. Running on every so often to spout lengthy “prophecy” monologues that cover everything from Greek mythology to pop culture references, Dukes provides some surprisingly necessary comic relief.
-Maryland theatre guide
Always a stand out, Jessica Frances Dukes knocks it out of the park with her Cassandra, inflating the flatter humor and defying the corn to keep her as compelling as she is funny as she is memorable
Vanya and Sonia’s clairvoyant housekeeper Cassandra comes by (in Jessica Frances Duke’s riotous performance, she actually breezes in like a dervish).
Dc metro theatre arts
Jessica Frances Dukes wrings more humor from her supporting part as Cassandra, the soothsayer/maid than a lesser actor could, but she’s a straight-up wacky neighbor. And even after that childless MILF Masha undergoes a wholly unconvincing 11th-hour quick-change in temperament, resolving to treat her helpless siblings with kindness, she persists in bossing around the only person of color on stage. (“Any age, probably African American,” is how Cassandra is described on page one of the script.)
-Washington city paper
KING HEDLEY II REVIEWS
The most memorable speeches here are reserved for Tonya, Hedley’s troubled wife, played here by Jessica Frances Dukes. Tonya, who has already lost one teenage daughter to the streets, learns she is now pregnant with Hedley’s child; her reluctance to carry the baby to term is shocking, but her reasons are impossible to ignore. See sees right through all of Hedley’s schemes, his plans to get rich quick, and tells him bluntly:
“King, you don’t understand. I don’t want everything … Your job is to be around so this baby can know you its daddy.”
Dukes’ inimitable delivery of the word in italics here (a resounding “A-ROUND”) cuts through all Hadley’s egoism and braggadocio with precision, and lays down a challenge that he cannot ignore. Nor can we.”
“Resisting this dead-end setting with all her might is King’s girlfriend, Tonya (Jessica Frances Dukes), a 35-year-old grandmother who does not share King’s eagerness to have a child. Tonya’s long speech about the unendurable hazards of trying to raise kids in such a lethal environment is gut-wrenching as delivered by the anguished Dukes,”
“Jessica Frances Dukes is wonderfully adept at plunging into strong complicated roles and she does so with finesse here as Hedley’s wife. Tonya has some of the most poignant monologues of Wilson’s entire cycle, and Dukes shows why she’s one of the hottest actors from our area.”
-DC theatre scene
“King’s wife is played by the fiery Jessica Frances Dukes. Her Tonya provides the counterpoint to King’s more materialistic notion of success.”
“including his pregnant lover, Tonya (Jessica Frances Dukes of The Conference of Birds giving a richly layered performance)”
– See more at: http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/playing-around/king-hedley-ii-black-lives-matter#.dpuf
“Jessica Frances Dukes as Tonya give valiant performances”
Four other terrific actors — Jessica Frances Dukes, Benja Kay Thomas, Lance Coadie Williams and Jesse Pennington — each play several roles, many outrageously comic.
is undeniably funny, depicts four women (played with tangy exuberance by Ms. Dukes and Ms. Thomas) discussing the preposterous name that one has chosen to give her new daughter: Genitalia. (Actually, the full name is Genitalia Lakeitha Shamala Abdul.) Later, in another uproarious and borderline tasteless scene, we see the grown Genitalia, now a mannish lesbian portrayed by Ms. Thomas, and her girlfriend, Intifada, played by Ms. Dukes, participating in a “noncommitment” ceremony in which they excoriate each other calmly but viciously.
”What you have said to me, I now say back to you and would like to add that you F— Yourself.” The couple is played by the terrific Jessica Frances Dukes and Benja Kay Thomas, who don multiple roles (and wigs) in Bootycandy, sometimes in the very same scene.
Scene 1, “Bootycandy,” opens with a young Sutter, sensitively and persuasively played by Phillip James Brannon, questioning his mother, the sensational Jessica Frances Dukes
The other performers are sensational throughout, wielding precisely the comic sensibility needed to keep you laughing nonstop. Dukes is one standout because of the verve she brings to Sutter’s barking mother;