Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Best Adaptation of a Play You've Never Heard Of -- (:)(:)(:)(:) For An Octoroon at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in DC

It was not without trepidation that I bought tickets for the Woolly Mammoth Theater.  Almost 20 years after moving across the country, we only recently successfully extricated ourselves from their mailing list.  But we always loved their work when we lived in DC and on our recent visit, it seemed clear that it was the best ticket in town.

So, I am pleased to give 4 somewhat weary snouts up (see the key for my snout-based rating system) for An Octoroon  at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, DC.

Typically a much discussed theatrical adaptation involves a play that we've seen or at least heard of. But this is adaptation called An Octoroon by African-American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkin of The Octoroon written and produced by white playwright Dion Boucicault in the19th century.    And it is fascinating.

To show you how wild the whole thing is: in the photo above, the character on the left is a white slaveholding character from the original Dion play being played by an African-American actor in white face. This actor starts the production as "the adapting playwright" who has had so much trouble  finding white actors to play the melodramatic 19th century slaveowners in the play that he resentfully decides to play the 2 lead characters himself by putting on white face. Meanwhile, the original 19th century playwright is played by a white actor who puts on "red face" to play a Native American character.  Most of the lines in the play are the original melodramatic race charged 19th century language but the framing is all 21st century African-American playwright lens.

It's super complex, super brilliant, super fascinating and super long--3 hours plus.  Hence the "weary snouts."  Let the bulk mailings begin...


Harry Mersmann said...

Great Play....Saw the Berkeley Rep version last month and for those of you on the West Coast, Cap Stage in Sacramento will be doing this play from 8/30-10/1

Sara S. Nichols said...

I cannot believe this! We're going to it again soon, then!

Sara S. Nichols said...

I would like to clarify that it's not "An Octoroon" that people haven't heard of, it's "The Octoroon," the play which it adapts.