Being christened with the name Hero as a baby is both a blessing and a curse, ladened as it is with expectations and responsibilities. How do you live up to a name that conjures ancient warriors like Hannibal and Ulysses? Where do the burdens and disappointments lie? For a young black slave living in a corrugated metal hut on his master’s plantation during the Civil War, the potential for disaster is evident every time someone calls out his name. Now Hero is at a crossroads. He must make a difficult choice, one that will make some people happy and another group of his family and friends devastated. The two sides are even betting on the outcome.
Suzan-Lori Parks has fashioned an epic saga in the first triptych of her historical drama “Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3” marching into the Yale Repertory Theatre’s University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven until Saturday, April 7. James Udom is commanding and conflicted as Hero who is asked by his boss master the Colonel, Tom Hiatt, to accompany him to war against the Union Army. For this dangerous deed, the Colonel will reward Hero’s courage with the gift of his freedom. It will be Hero’s responsibility to care for his master and for the master’s horse.
For Hero, his choice is a field of cotton or the field of battle and he must decide which direction to take. Hero’s dog, an engagingly vital Gregory Wallace, has run off which Hero interprets as a bad sign. To his friend Homer, a disabled Julian Elijah Martinez, the choice is further complicated by the fact that he doesn’t believe the boss master can be trusted to honor his pledge of freedom. Homer and Hero have a complicated relationship that involves a lack of trust with serious consequences.
If Hero gains his freedom, he will have the opportunity to live in glory and belong to himself, and even to marry Penny, Eboni Flowers, the faithful woman who loves him. The illusions to Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Ulysses, Penelope and the faithful dog are evident. Hero’s decision to go or to stay weighs heavily on his heart and has the potential to change the course of his life. Liz Diamond directs this involving and intriguing tale of life altering choices of which road to travel.
For tickets ($44-90 ), call the Yale Rep at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.
How will Hero act when asked to help defend a country that does not value him, except in terms of the sweat of his brow and the strength of his muscles, but not of his humanity.