Watching the performance of "Native Son" at Washington’s Mosaic Theater this week as an adult was as harrowing as reading Richard Wright’s novel more than 40 years ago as a teenager. Before the play, the theater put the audience on notice that the play would contain strong language and sexual violence. And, it did.
Unlike the book that chronologically told the tale of a young Black man who accidently killed a young, rich, communist sympathizing, sexually explorative White woman, the play cleverly used flashback and a “narrator/speaking conscience” character, Black Rat, to help tell the story.
During the past 40 years, I pictured Bigger Thomas as tall, thin, and Black. The image of Clayton Pelham, Jr, who convincingly played the central character, has taken its place. And, Vaughn Ryan Midder was his stellar “narrator/speaking conscience” in the role not found in the book, Black Rat.