While “Native Son
” is very harrowing, the world premiere of “Les Deux Noirs (The Two Blacks): Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son” at Mosaic Theater is more explanatory and entertaining. Playwright Psalmayene 24 imagines a 1953 meeting between Richard Wright and his one-time protege James Baldwin in the famous Paris café Les Deux Magots. In reality, the meeting was between the two and Chester Himes - - all writers.
Reportedly, the rancorous meeting came about after the then neophyte Baldwin criticized the more established Wright’s “Native Son” in two published essays. According to Isaiah M. Wooden, the production’s dramaturg, “Despite his sometimes scathing commentary, Baldwin insisted that it was never his intent to betray his elder colleagues.”
Les Deux Noirs features Jeremy Hunter as James Baldwin and James J. Johnson, as Richard Wright. Hunter recently starred in The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
at MetroStage. Both did great jobs, but Hunter’s role allowed him to show more diversity in style, sometimes as a harden rapper and sometimes as the more animated Baldwin.
Psalmayene 24 creatively made the exploration into their lives, grievances, and similarities entertaining via piercing dialog and palatable rap. He says he used rap “as a convention of communication,” but it was also very amusing. They bantered on a number of issues, but often returning to Wrights’ involvement with White women, Baldwin’s with White men, and the characters Wright created.
They did have one strong agreement: Paris is Freedom. America is Prison.