Trendy Pop: Amiri Baraka’s ‘Dutchman’ Makes Triumphant Return to the Stage
Despite the torrents of rain that drenched the New York streets and sidewalks, an impressive crowd followed through with their plans to take in the screening of the iconic play that catapulted it’s writer, the late Amiri Baraka to instant recognition.
Baraka wrote Dutchman when he was still known as LeRoi Jones, and the jarring piece about a white woman who seduces a black man on a train made it’s debut at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village back in 1964.
After taking in the production last night, it’s very clear why this recent revival was necessitated. The story sounds simple enough but the tragic ending will leave you satisfactorily stunned. It also goes without saying that the present racial climate gives Dutchman the ammunition needed to aptly resonate with theatergoers, by serving as a searing reminder that despite our best intentions, not much has changed since the turbulent 60’s.
The stirring one-act play garnered an Obie Award for Best American Play in 1964. It was also translated to the big screen in 1967, starring the late Al Freeman, Jr., and Shirley Knight.
Now fifty years later, we are being treated to an updated version with actors Sharif Atkins (White Collar, Hawaii, ER) and Ambien Mitchell in the principal roles as Clay and Lula respectively. The performances were indelibly gratifying, with no missed beats and a consistently rising tempo that perfectly heralded the explosive finale. Director Carl Cofield did an impeccable job helming this production.
If you are lucky enough to catch Dutchman, it will certainly be a worthwhile experience. It will run from May 3 to May 23 at The Classical Theater of Harlem. Click here for more info.
In the meantime check out our interview with director Carl Cofield below.
MTB: What initiated this triumphant return of Dutchman – almost fifty years after its impeccable debut?
CC: My sincere hope, is that the play will foster tough and rigorous conversations about difficult issues and that the play will serve, to quote the rapper KRS-1, as Edutainment.