note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Beverly Creasey
If you missed Roger Guenveur Smith as Huey Newton at the Strand last Friday night, then you have no choice. You MUST get yourself down to the Big Apple because your next chance to see A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY is Thursday, July 23, in Central Park.
Smith's phenomenal monologue (with occasional music and commentary from Marc Anthony Thompson) is an extraordinary piece of writing. Smith honestly says that the text is 80% Huey --- from his writing, interviews, etc. But that remaining 20% of how to stage the material and where to place it all is 100% genius.
Smith's searing contemporary references --- to Spike Lee, Tupak Shakur, Bob Marley, the artist formerly known as "the charmer", and the brilliant, heart-stopping, heart-breraking, drug-induced "chicken dance" to Bob Dylan's "Ballad of A Thin Man" --- make the piece accessible to any gae group (not just aged hippies like me) who were utterly spellbound...and mighty moved, I might add. It felt like Huey back from the dead, ranting and raving about how we ought to wake up and be scared ... how we ought to be laughin' at the FBI for thinking that free breakfasts were the number one threat to the nation ... about J. Edgar Hoover claiming the Panthers were infiltrating the Black community "like a Black man who grew up in a neighborhood would be infiltratin' his own community." Huey jokes that he thought he heard J. Edgar sneaking up on him ... he thought he heard high heels clicking on the stage . Smith's Huey gets more and more agitated, and more and more high. Smith affects a high frenetic voice like ayoung Muhammed Ali putting on the media before a bout. Sometimes he sounds like Richard Pryor ... and the sadness juxtaposed with the hilarious ironic bite in Huey's choice of words leaves you laughing one moment and crying the next. This is Theater at its ultimate.
Take a train. Het on a bus. Hitchhike. But don't miss A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY.