Location: Cheshire, Connecticut, United States

devilishly handsome, screamingly funny, overly modest

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK Night Out

My brother called me yesterday to ask whether we should follow an impulse and go out to dinner and a "reading" at the Hartford Stage Company of David Beatty's work "Resurection". Dinner was terrific and I'll comment in a later post, but I want to talk about the show. Apparently a "reading" is the presentation of a play before it's cooked into its final form. The actors sit on bar stools and read from an open script, occasionally getting up and acting a little if they've memorized their lines for that portion of the play. We were told that the players had only a week or so to rehearse and memorize, which was ocasionally painfully obvious as stumbling and slurring occurred often.

The play was about the Black male experience in America, specifically the ghetto experience (none of these characters resembled Barack Obama, Bill Cosby, or Michael Jordan). The men ranged in age from 10 to 60 at ten year intervals. Beatty based these characters on an acticle he had read about the problems facing Black men, ascribing to each individual generic factors affecting (and afflicting) male Black society. For example, one man (a financially successful 50 year old) was gay and wouldn't leave the closet because he feared (1) rejection by his society's Evangelical church and (2) rejection by the Bishop of that church (his father). The Bishop (60 years old) was an obese diabetic addicted to Ho Hos (providing comic relief albeit representing a serious social problem). Also on stage (on chairs, actually) were a 40 year old health shop owner about to close his store for lack of community support, an ex-con who had HIV virus from needle sharing (and had infected his pregnant girlfriend), and a 20 year old just graduating high school late because of a misdiagnosis of dislexia, but nonetheless had become an honor student and was heading for Morehouse College.

The 10 year old boy, representing future generations of Black men, apparently died, then was "resurected" along with all the other characters in a rousing finale. When asked about this in a Q&A after the show, Beatty said that the boy didn't actually die and that this would be more evident when the finished play was performed. When I pointed out that this would take a re-write as a deep voice from the back of the theater (as part of the performance) SAID he died, Iwas told that "it was in the hearing" and that I had apparently not heard it right. It was the director who said this. My feeling was that it was the director who hadn't "heard" a lot of things right, but then what can you expect from an aging white guy directing a Black-themed play. Loses some credibility there.

I had one thing that caught in my craw. When the school kid was misdiagnosed as a "special ed " student, it was determined that in fact he was dyslexic, after which he of course became an honor student. My problem with that is that dyslexia as a ploy in educational plots has become more hackneyed than amnesia in a mystery novel. If the percentages of plot use held true in real life we'd be overrun with dyslexics and amnesiacs.

I'd give this almost-play a solid 7 1/2 out of 10. It goes next to Washington, D.C. and eventually to New York (maybe). Maybe with re-working (and a new director) it could be a 9.

My apologies to my reading audience for the lack of humor in this post. Next time I'll write about something really funny, like the presidential race (weren't those debates a riot?)...or the stock market.



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