The Whipping Man -- Intriguing But Emotionally Cool
By Bob And Karen Isaacs
BOB: I did not hold out much hope for the play at Hartford Stage, BUT I was pleasantly surprised by this intriguing recent play, The Whipping Man by a promising young playwright, Matthew Lopez.
KAREN: I agree it was intriguing and very well done, however, I just never got emotionally caught by the characters.
BOB: The play takes place in Richmond, Virginia right after Lee’s surrender at Appomatax. Caleb DeLeon -- a Jewish confederate soldier arrives home to his deserted and almost destroyed family home -- his parents and others have left for safer areas. He does find there Simon -- a former slave in the family and later John, a younger former slave who was raised as a companion to Caleb. Both the slaves were raised as Jews.
KAREN: What happens is that over the course of the next few days -- after the two men have amputated Caleb’s gangrenous leg, is a revealing of family secrets. Since it is set in April, they celebrate Passover though Caleb has lost most of his faith.
BOB: I liked the way the playwright balanced the concept of the Passover and the civil war and the freeing of the slaves.
KAREN: I agree that it was well done.
BOB: The performers were each excellent -- Josh Landay as Caleb, Che Ayende as John and Leon Addison Brown as Simon -- they made you see the multiple layers of the characters.
KAREN: The overall production -- including set, sound, lighting, costumes -- was also excellent. The set really illustrated this destroyed house -- with its broken floorboards, wrecked furniture and more.
BOB: Director Hana Sharif has managed to combine some ghostly elements into the play. Originally the play was two acts -- but it was a good decision to remove the intermission – it allows the tension to build and the play runs about an hour and 40 minutes.
KAREN: I enjoyed the play -- though sometimes the playwright telegraphed some plot elements. But I wish I could have become more emotionally invested in the characters.
BOB: I also -- but I was intellectually involved in what the playwright was doing -- seeing how he was interlocking the elements.
KAREN: You will find this a fascinating play -- it is at Hartford Stage until March 18
This review aired on WNHU-88.7 FM and www.wnhu.net