Presented by Huntington Theatre Company
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Billy Porter
Review by Kitty Drexel
Trigger warning – gunshots
(Boston, MA) Emasculation is something a man allows himself to feel. He can prevent emasculation by choosing not to feel that way. He can choose not to let society’s BS gender roles impact his self-definition of manhood. Flip the script: change how you think to change how you feel.
In TopDog/UnderDog (TDUD), Lincoln (Tyrone Mitchell Henderson) and Booth (Matthew J. Harris) are two brothers sharing a stark, one-room apartment with no running water, kitchen or bathroom. They are living under the poverty line, and doing the best they can. Lincoln used to deal three card monte like a genius, but he gave it up. Booth wants to deal the cards against Lincoln’s advice. Booth’s impatient and impetuous nature coupled with his crippling insecurities threaten to destroy the little joy they have.
Like the majority of the Huntington’s work, this is a solid production. Henderson and Harris give powerful, thoughtful performances. They, like the majority of the creative staff, are not local actors. The Huntington Theatre, a company that has most recently fought vigorously to stay local, hired non-local actors and crew for this production. Boston has a community full of POC actors, and crew. Hiring out was not necessary. It was a choice.
Suzan-Lori Parks is an amazing, timeless writer. If you’re an actor, go out and read everything she’s written. The Book of Grace is the companion to TDUD, and has already become a classic. I personally recommend In The Blood. Parks taps a private vein that must become public in order for society to change for the better.
TDUD is not easy to watch. Lincoln and Booth are not easy men to like. Yet, this is a play that’s necessary to see. It speaks aloud a dialogue about addiction, poverty, black, male gender roles, domestic violence, and racism that white society would prefer to ignore. It’s not a niche play. It’s a tragedy with universal application told by two black men.
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. His plan to slash the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is HERE. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so. Fight him. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD
Sign the petition to protect the National Endowment HERE.
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