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Nashville Repertory Theatre’s “The Whipping Man” stuns with powerful, moving performance

Nashville Repertory Theatre’s latest production, “The Whipping Man,” offers a powerful and emotionally driven look into our nation’s history.

The intense play is set at the end of the Civil War and is based on the idea of slaves adopting the religious beliefs of their owners and the relationship that faith, particularly Judaism, may establish between the slaves and owners.

“The Whipping Man” is the compelling story of three men, a Jewish Confederate soldier and two of his family’s former slaves, adjusting to a post-Civil War society.

Caleb, expertly portrayed by Belmont alumnus Matthew Rosenbaum, is a young Confederate soldier that stumbles home wounded and starving, only to find that his family is gone.

Upon entering the ruined and rotting house, Caleb finds Simon and John, two of his family’s slaves, and learns that his family fled their Richmond, Va. home and to the safety of the countryside during the war.

As Simon and John care for Caleb’s battle wounds and nurse him back to health, secrets emerge that inhibit the three men from being able to fully accept the new relationship of equality that emancipation established.

Former Tennessee Titans’ starting tailback Eddie George amazingly portrays the complex and emotionally charged role of Simon, a man with unshakeable faith and an optimistic attitude, despite his horrific circumstances.

George’s intensity and dry humor in the portrayal of Simon is perfectly complemented by James Rudolph’s depiction of John, whose flippant, carefree attitude and sarcastic lines offer fantastic comic relief throughout the show.

John’s sarcasm and jokes perfectly break up the intensity of the play and balance out the serious tone in a manner that does not make light of the powerful message.

Rosenbaum, who recently graduated from Belmont with a BFA in musical theater, wonderfully depicts the complexity of a young man whose beliefs about society and equality have just been shattered.

Additionally, the chemistry and apparent camaraderie between the three actors brings the story to life and elevated it to an entirely new emotional level.

Perfectly cast with a beautifully designed set and incredibly powerful message, “The Whipping Man” rips through the folds of history to offer a raw look at the struggles and pain of a war torn country and the relevance of faith in the face of death and despair.

“The Whipping Man” will be performed nightly Tuesday through Saturday from Feb. 10 to Feb. 21 in Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Johnson Theater. Tickets are being offered to Belmont students for $22 dollars through Nashville Rep’s website at

A limited number of student rush tickets are also available for each show. Students simply need to arrive at the theater 90 minutes before the show begins and present their student IDs to the box office to purchase a ticket for $12.50.

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