Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Free Man of Color

Quite an epic on stage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center!  Three hours - and chock full of action, education, and quite a few laughs along the way.  John Guare's new opus is an ambitious work - as evidenced by the size cast - 26 listed in on the billboard alone and most play multiple characters on top of that!

Guare takes us on a journey to New Orleans in 1801 - which, in case you didn't know, was not part of America at this point in time.  It was filled with Spaniards, French, and Caribbeans of all types.   New Orleans was a land where men of all shades of color - from white to dark filled the city and shared a grand life.  It was a city where a slave could buy his freedom and become the toast of the town - especially among the women (of all colors) of the town.  Not only does Guare's play give us a sense of life in this vaudevillian city - he goes further to educate us on the global politics of the (1801) day - teaching us how Spain, France, England and Sante Dominigue (Haiti) all were part of the story of how America came to own this vast new land that spanned westward from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River, from the Gulf of Mexico northward to Canada - and how it changed New Orleans forever.

Jeffrey Wright helms the cast as the main character, Jacques Cornet and gets tremendous support from dozens of actors playing multiple characters in at least 4 different countries.  Stand-out performances to be noted:  Mos Def (the rapper) as Cornet's slave, John McMartin as Thomas Jefferson, Veanne Cox as Dona Polissena, a scientist, a young Paul Dano as Meriweather Lewis (of Lewis and Clark), and Triney Sandoval as Napoleon Bonaparte - - just to name a few.

Three hours may seem like an eternity - but director, George C. Wolfe, crams enough witty and quick tempo dialogue, colorful costumes, lively action and an abundance of information in to the fast paced, multi-country story that before you know it, 11:00 is here and you're dumped out on the plaza at Lincoln center with all the hoity-toity opera snobs in their tuxedos and gowns.  I highly recommend you attend this epic tale before it sells out for the season.