port of harlem magazine
port of harlem gambian education partnership ">Mosaic Theater
Native Son, Harrowing Then, Harrowing Now
April 11 – April 24, 2019

native son

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.

Nambi E. Kelly, who wrote the play based on Wright’s book, created the role of Black Rat as a “manifestation of W.E.B. DuBois theory of double-consciousness.”  The double-consciousness Kelly says allows Black people to survive. She continued, “I am attempting to show you who he is from the inside.”

The set (Ethan Sinnot), sound (Nick Hernandez), projections (Dylan Uremovich) and choreography (Tony Thomas) were some of the elements that made the production full and eased the trauma expressed in the acting and dialogue. The 90-minute, no intermission performance may be a bit too much for some who are in a delicate place, but the extreme drama and intellect and creative production was worth my time and money.
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