West Coast Florida
The Whipping Man
Also see Bill's review of The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Board member Howard Millman, formally Artistic Director of Asolo Rep, has stepped into the director's chair for The Whipping Man. With his deep connections in the regional theater world, WBTT was able to bring Taurean Blacque (Detective Neil Washington on "Hill Street Blues")to Sarasota in the role of Simon, former slave, always in charge of the house. In a brilliant performance, Blacque brings emotional depth to this fatherly role, wise sage to both of the two other characters. Robert Douglas plays John, also previously one of the plantation slaves. He gives a fine performance. His monologue that gives the play its title is riveting and when he runs out, Millman allows a long silence that is overwhelming in its intensity. Drew Foster returns to his hometown to play Caleb, son of the plantation owners. He delivers a nuanced performance as Caleb, damaged by his war experiences, in pain from an injury and at sea with the emotion charged changes going on around him in his relationships with Simon and John. One thing I noticed about all three was their ease with the Jewish ritual, for example how they wear yarmulkes, the Hebrew skullcaps. At the talk back after the performance, all credited director Millman for this.
WBTT continues to rise to greater and greater artistic heights. Last year I wrote that I had seen the best production by them ever, so I no longer allow myself to say that, but they do keep raising the bar. The set by Richard Cannon has many details that inform the audience how the home and its inhabitants had been affected by the war. It opens a deeper playing space to the rear than I had seen previously. Costume designer Timothy Beltley provides period dress which does not call a lot of attention to itself, but this play does not make strong demands in this area. Caleb's war wounds and John's physical scars, done with makeup, are superb. No one is given credit for this in the program. All of the other technical aspects of the performance are up to company standards. It is always nice to see regulars such as Juanita Munford, James Dodge, II, Shane Streight and Michael Pasquini in their regular places, WBTT being a family company.
Outstanding acting in service to a provocative play gives Sarasota audiences reason to see The Whipping Man.
The Whipping Man, presented by WBTT Theater, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, Florida, 366-1505. Through February 2, 2014. For more information, visit www.wbttsrq.org.
Cast: in alphabetical order
Director: Howard Millman