Monday, August 18, 2008

Dutchman

The David Mamet School for Boys
August 15 - 23, 2008

Review by peanutduck

1960s, subway car, white woman initiates game of abusive seduction with black man. Murray’s Lula teasingly gropes Clay while racial slurs roll off her tongue, yet Najieb’s Clay barely flinches. Emotional and/or sexual connection between actors is absent, preventing sense of mounting danger; thus, climax, rather than shocking, falls flat.

9 comments:

kip said...

First of all, I would like to congratulate Megan Ward for choosing such a timely piece. Amiri Baraka's words still resonate after decades of progress, which makes me question what kind of "progress" there has been for minorities in this country. I also want to congratulate Nasir Najieb and Julie Jeske Murray for taking on the project. Unfortunately, this show fell flat.

First off, there is absolutely no sexual tension in the piece. In fact, there is no tension in the piece at all. For a play that illustrates the struggle of a black man trying to make it in white society, this production does not even live up to the danger and eroticism the script calls for. Julie's costume might be a "period piece" but it wasn't flattering or suggestive. To play on the stereotype that black men are highly sexual beings (which is one of the many themes the play tackles), the costumer could have been more daring.

Also, the blocking was not dynamic. There were moments when the confrontations could have been more sinister and provocative but I found myself having to play ping pong between the two actors just to get a full view of what was going on. As a result, there was no tension created even with the blocking.

Finally, the show has no nuance. The first 20 minutes of the show the two actors seemed like they were reciting lines. There was no subtly or even some belabored subtext. Just "my line, you line" recitation. It was as if they were not even listening to one another despite the powerful words that were coming out of their mouths.

Ms. Ward has chosen an excellent script for her first production. However, I think the script was beyond her and her actors' abilities. The show is sophomoric as best and tame/safe at worst. Maybe it was too scary for the actors and the director to actually say the word "nigger" with the sting that it needs and fearing the results of that sting. But that was the play I was hoping to see.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I was at a different performance but I thought the play's direction and the performers were excellent.Julie Murray put in an incredible performance as the deranged upper class woman who was baiting the prim and proper black man. I think kip doesn't understand the material or the times. The video clippings were a nice touch. l964 was not a time of skimpy dresses...it was Jackie O and this young woman was a woman of means and that is what is so unbelievable...and he wasn't the sexy black man, he was the educated,serious black intellectual. I think kip is too immature to get the play.

Anonymous said...

I must have been at a different peformance but I thought Dutchman was very nuanced directed and the performances especially of Julie Murray was very strong. It captured the era. The Lulu character was not a slutty white woman but rather an upper class white woman in her 30s and Clay is a serious well educated black man who is not looking to get entangled with this bizarre woman. That is why is is shocking that this woman should wish to destroy him. I think Kip is contemporazing the material. I think the director has given a very accurate portrayal of characters of the time. Thoroughly engrosssing. great visuals. I would encourage others to see it and judge for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I was going to comment on the anonymous 1 and 2 postings BUT I'd rather ask these simple question: Why was Lula "baiting" Clay? Why was Clay sitting there taking it? What did the APPLE signify and how did it speak to the theme of the play? For that matter - WHAT WAS THE THEME OF THE PLAY - as performed? SOME ONE, ANY ONE???? I DARE YOU!

Anonymous said...

In answer to the question "what was the theme of the play" - I'll take the dare. It's my opinion of course - the girl represents white society and the black man represents the confused and confusing position of the new black man. Is he to fit in? Is he meant to challenge the view put out by the girl of his brothers and himself? Is he to be cool? Is he trying to find out how to act with this new found identity? Is the white society changing or not in relationship to him - all blacks? WANT MORE>?

Anonymous said...

don't agree
with the comment that the performance lacked sexual tension or
connection between the actors.

Maybe Saturday's performance was off, but somehow I doubt it.

The play is a period piece. I was written in 1964. Maybe these Regan
era kids just don't get it. They never saw Bobby Seale on the evening
news, or riots in Berkeley, or crowds in American cities being
suppressed with fire hoses and billy clubs.

Malachy said...

What was the theme of the play?

How about the change in the relationship between society (the girl) and the black man? How about the black man being at a cross roads reinventing how he is seen and what he can be allowed to do without getting into trouble and not knowing what that looks like so being tentative, humorous, cocky, hoping this doesn't disturb too mightly the tolerance that is being established between them?

Jon Farley said...

I saw this show on opening night. My thoughts on the performance follow:

Dutchman is breathtaking. See it.

I should leave it at that. Anything more will just be a litany of superlatives that never quite measure up to the performance that they attempt to describe.

The play depicts an encounter between a black man and a white woman on a New York City subway train in 1964. The language is so vivid and fresh, I found it hard to believe this script was written over 40 years ago. Nasir Najieb and Julie Jeske Murray are too young to have experienced the tensions of that era first hand, yet they handle the language and situation just right. It is as though time has stood still and we are seeing it all anew.

The mistrust and misunderstandings on both sides of the racial divide are vividly portrayed. And both characters make substantial transformations from their "civilized" selves into their more raw, more dangerous, inner personae. Nasir is particularly striking as he drops the guise of the milquetoast intellectual and reveals a seething black nationalist.

The effect is almost surreal. Between the transposition of time, the close heat of the theatre on a summer night (not unlike that of a subway train), and the peeling back of layers of artifice, we arrive at another place and time entirely in which one begins to doubt the reality of civilization and the possibility of human communication.

It is a thrill ride through a dark tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Although you could read some Adam and Eve crap into the apples, I believe it was only a device to allow her to have the knife.

As to the blocking not being dynamic: they're on a subway car. Kip, how unmotivated must blocking be before you consider it dynamic?