- Faith & Family
At first glance, one might ask why is a play written in 1964 still being performed and even more, is its message still relevant? But then, this is America where recent political events illustrate that racism is still very much alive and well — albeit it in a more subtle form.
That’s why AAPACT Founder/Producing Artistic Director Teddy Harrell, Jr.’s decision to showcase Amiri Baraka’s The Dutchman is such a bold and appropriate move. The one-act play is the seminal work by Baraka, one of the most articulate and gifted writers of the Black Arts Movement established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His work marks one of the first times that Black language, ritual and everyday experiences were showcased on stage. The anger that we witness in his characters illustrates the incessant desire to find a solution to America’s most encompassing illness — racism.
“When Baraka wrote this play in 1963, Jim Crow was still alive and Blacks were still greatly oppressed,” Harrell said. “He was a disciple of Malcolm X and the Black Power Movement was in its infantile stages. In a sense, the play is a metaphor for what was happening to Blacks then and even now. On a subway a provocative white woman, Lula [Yevgeniya Kats], picks up a handsome, young Black stranger, Clay [Samuel Umoh] and mocks him for having mastered the uniform, language and manners of white intellectuals. In the end she lures him to his death. Ironically, it’s almost 50 years since the play debuted and while we have a Black man in the White House, there are those in white America who want to crucify him. One could say that President Obama represents Clay while white America represents Lula.”
Superb acting from start to finish
The lead roles are played by Kats, a Ukranian-born actress with a degree in theater from SMU and Umoh, an African-born man who earned his theater degree from Barry University. Both give stellar performances. Smaller parts are played by Miami-Dade County Public School students currently studying drama at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center.
And while costs continue to rise, AAPACT has remained committed to keeping its prices affordable.
“It’s important that our people be able to enjoy fine theater just like those who are more affluent,” Harrell added.
Next season will be even more exciting, Harrell says, with shows like Baldwin’s Amen Corner and Wilson’s Fences among the line up. So, if affordable theater done with great precision and excellence is what you’re seeking, check out The Dutchman. We definitely give it a “thumbs-up.”
The show runs through Sept. 30th at the Center’s Wendall Narcisse Performing Arts Theatre [6161 NW 22nd Ave.] For more info, call 305-638-6771.
By D. Kevin McNeir