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Dutchman Written by <br> Amiri Baraka's Dutchman, a Curtainup Online theater magazine review CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp Review
Dutchman

By Jenny Sandman
Lula, everything you say is wrong. Thatís what makes you so attractive. —Clay

Dule Hill and Jennifer Mudge in Dutchman
Dule Hill and Jennifer Mudge in Dutchman (Photo: Gabe Evans)
Dutchman is one of those plays that remains evocative of its time while still managing to be fresh and edgy for new audiences. First produced at Cherry Lane in 1964. and made into a movie in 1967 starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, it chronicles the long uptown subway ride of Clay and Lula. Clay is a young, naÔve black man on his way to a party. Lula, as her name would suggest, is a white temptress, determined to seduce him. In the process, they both struggle to come to terms with race relations and their own prejudices.

Itís an angry play with a violent ending. If its dialogue makes today's audiences cringe today, I can only imagine their reaction in 1964. Clay and Lula are forbidden territory to each othe. She suggests that he is not the first black man sheís bedded. He realizes that she is bad news, even as he's drawn to her. The chemistry between them is undeniable, but ever present are centuries of stereotypes and racial tension. In the end, the stereotypes are all that matter.

Actors Dule Hill (Clay) and Jennifer Mudge (Lula) play their roles perfectly. They maintain a high fever pitch of passion and rage, never letting the audience relax. The other actors are subway passengers (and the conductor). While they never say anything, they nonetheless play an active role in the build-up of tension.

The set is a wonder. A subway car complete with working doors, a conductor, and wall ads. The flickering lights and carefully orchestrated sounds effects (the whoosh of the train, that annoying "ding" every time the doors open and close) bring the play to life, but never upstage the acting.

Playwright Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) is a well-known activist, and Dutchman remains his signature play. Itís one of the most worth seeing revivals you're likely to find anywhere in Manhattan at the moment. Known for both his plays and his poetry, Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones. Until the mid-1960's he published as LeRoi Jones. In 1965, following the assassination of Malcolm X, he changed his name to Amiri Baraka. His writings are usually political in nature, dealing with race relations, Black Nationalism, Marxism, and contemporary events.

Typically, plays about race relations made in the early sixties don't age well. It was a different time with different expectations, but Dutchman shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Baraka's message is still relevant today. This play is one of the most worth seeing revivals playing in town right now.

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Title: Dutchman Written Amiri Baraka Directed by Bill Duke
Cast: Dule Hill, Jennifer Mudge, Paul Benjamin, Justin Carter, Christina Lind, and Arthur Lundquist Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design
Drew Levy and Tony Smolenski
Costume Design: Rebecca Bernstein
Set Design: Troy Hourie
Video Design: Aaron Rhyne
Running Time: Fifty minutes, no intermission
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, 212-239-6200
From 1/16/07 to 2/10/07--extended to 2/24/07
Monday and Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday thru Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm and 8pm
Friday & Saturday at 8pm - $40; All other performances, $35; Student with valid ID - $10 student tickets must be purchased in person at the box office, one hour before showtime

Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on January 19 performance
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
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