Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Top Dog/Underdog"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey

Every Dog Gets His Day
@ New Rep

Reviews by Beverly Creasey

Here’s the great news! New Rep has extended the run of TOPDOG UNDERDOG so you have the chance to see two of the most electrifying performances on the Boston stage this season. Actually you can see double that amount because the two actors in Suzan-Lori Parks riveting drama exchange roles on alternate nights!

Parks has a thing for Abraham Lincoln—which is no surprise because some one hundred fifty years after emancipation, racism is alive and, alas, thriving in our little myopic democracy. Parks featured Abe in THE AMERICA PLAY and he’s still getting shot in TOPDOG as Americans line up at a bizarre sideshow attraction to try their luck. Instead of metal ducks, it’s a sitting duck of a lame duck of a President and just like it was in 1863, his luck is still running out.

So it is for the two brothers in TOPDOG, ironically named Booth and Lincoln by their fleeing parents. Parks loves irony and what could be more sardonic than a Black man in white face portraying the Great Emancipator while white folks line up to shoot him. The two brothers are just getting by, on the sideshow salary and boosted groceries, sharing a squalid room (with no bath) like caged tigers in Kent Gash’s urgent, searing production---in an actual cage-set by Eugene Lee.

“The world,” says Booth, “puts a foot in your face and you don’t move.” Kes Khemnu and Joe Wilson, Jr. are hilarious as the strutting, jiving, angry, crazy-going brothers whose fate will “unfold the way it folded up.” Their performances are so exhilarating you almost cannot believe they can switch skins. Once you see one performance, you’ll be compelled to see the other. Don’t miss TOPDOG under any circumstances.

"Topdog/Underdog" (23 February - 2 April)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS MA
1 (617)332-1646

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide