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Dutchman

The characters are more archetypes than persons, the intertwining of racial and sexual politics in a series of riveting monologues.

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The most depressing aspect of Bricolage's production of 1964 Obie-winner Dutchman is that it is not a creaky, dated period piece. This nightmare subway ride crackles and sparks, bubbling over with racial tension — not to say hatred, even rage. Almost a tone poem by LeRoi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka), Dutchman savagely mixes seduction, betrayal and conspiracy under the direction of Mark Clayton Southers.

Bricolage producing director Tami Dixon portrays the apple-chomping temptress Lula to Jonathan Berry's relatively innocent young black man, Clay. Obviously symbolic of the Biblical Eve (and Lilith), Lula also harkens to the Original Sin of the birth of the United States: its acceptance, nay, dependence on an economic system based on enslaved labor. Heck, the "Father of Our Country," the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the architect of the Constitution (not to mention several of their successors to the presidency), for all their Enlightment espousals of freedom, could not and would give up their own slaves.

Just as slavery engendered the occasional violent rebellions, so Lula arouses Clay to stages of anger bordering on the homicidal. The characters are more archetypes than persons, the intertwining of racial and sexual politics in a series of riveting monologues. Certainly, the physical interactions would have been shocking a half-century ago.

Usually so sparely produced for its "radio plays," Bricolage has pulled out the stops to recreate a seedy New York subway. Kudos to Jesse Connor, set designer; Dave Bjornson, sound; John Friedman, technical director; Jeffrey Small, lighting; and the whole production team. 

Bricolage expands the scope of the brief play with a "second act" of talk-back, "Between the Lines: Conversations About Race Relations," with various community speakers and audience input. Lord love 'em, but they're preaching to the choir. With the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting non-stop growth in hate groups, schools more segregated than before Brown v. Board of Education, and fearful Tea Partiers screeching to "take our country back," the folks who most need post-racial conversation aren't going to listen.

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