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A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman
It’s an angry play with a violent ending. If its dialogue makes today's audiences cringe today, I can only imagine their reaction in 1964. Clay and Lula are forbidden territory to each othe. She suggests that he is not the first black man she’s bedded. He realizes that she is bad news, even as he's drawn to her. The chemistry between them is undeniable, but ever present are centuries of stereotypes and racial tension. In the end, the stereotypes are all that matter.
Actors Dule Hill (Clay) and Jennifer Mudge (Lula) play their roles perfectly. They maintain a high fever pitch of passion and rage, never letting the audience relax. The other actors are subway passengers (and the conductor). While they never say anything, they nonetheless play an active role in the build-up of tension.
The set is a wonder. A subway car complete with working doors, a conductor, and wall ads. The flickering lights and carefully orchestrated sounds effects (the whoosh of the train, that annoying "ding" every time the doors open and close) bring the play to life, but never upstage the acting.
Playwright Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) is a well-known activist, and Dutchman remains his signature play. It’s one of the most worth seeing revivals you're likely to find anywhere in Manhattan at the moment. Known for both his plays and his poetry, Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones. Until the mid-1960's he published as LeRoi Jones. In 1965, following the assassination of Malcolm X, he changed his name to Amiri Baraka. His writings are usually political in nature, dealing with race relations, Black Nationalism, Marxism, and contemporary events.
Typically, plays about race relations made in the early sixties don't age well. It was a different time with different expectations, but Dutchman shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Baraka's message is still relevant today. This play is one of the most worth seeing revivals playing in town right now.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide