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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum

AMBITIOUS BLACK HISTORY LESSON

AMBITIOUS BLACK HISTORY LESSON
By FRANK SCHECK

October 13, 2006 -- WHEN a play begins with a solitary figure talking about his feelings now that his wife has left him, it's easy to think that we're in for another routine domestic drama. But "Blue Door," the new play by Tanya Barfield, has weightier things on its mind - namely, to encompass the entire trajectory of the African-American experience in no more than 90 minutes and with only two actors.

That this ambitious conceit works to the extent that it does is a testament to the passion of Barfield's writing and, more important, the blazing performances, particularly by newcomer Andre Holland.

Playing various deceased relatives of the central character, Lewis (Reg E. Cathey), a mathematics professor struggling with feelings of racial identity, this talented young actor nearly manages to lift the evening above the weight of its aspirations.

Lewis' wife, a white woman, has left him after his refusal to join in the Million Man March on Washington.

Now, alone and on a forced sabbatical, he ponders his past and his long-gone relatives.

They include his great-grandfather Simon, a slave; his grandfather Jesse, lynched by a mob for the crime of attempting to vote; and his brother Rex, who died of a drug overdose. We also hear about Lewis' father, an alcoholic who beat his two sons.

This litany of generational woe, while it certainly rings true in its individual moments, becomes a bit too much to bear for the play's fragile structure.

While powerful and deeply moving at times, one wishes Barfield had organized her ideas into a more cohesive drama.

BLUE DOOR
Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 W. 42nd St.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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