Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's review of The Mousetrap
And though it only takes up about 55 minutes, at the former Way Out Club at Jefferson and Gravois Avenues in south St. Louis, the intricate story travels far and wide, under the cooperative direction of four people, including the two central cast members, Cameron Jamarr and Eileen Engel. Additional directorial credit goes to Bradford Lewis Rolen and Zahria Moore. And though I always think too many cooks spoil the plot, this show actually takes on a deep luster for having four directors.
There's a slight muddling of the timeline: Ms. Engel seems to have stepped right out of the decade of the hippies, and Mr. Jamarr carries a cell phone. But great vistas of Black doubt and fear and disappointment–and confidence, and rage, and self-determination–remain timeless, and surface with a poet's level of precision, defying the decades.
The theatrical venue is now known as the Greenfinch Theater & Dive, and the show itself is produced by Soul Siren Playhouse. A high level of self-assuredness in performance sweeps us along with the action. And then, when rhetoric and emotions get out of control, we are trapped on that subway car right along with the Black businessman and the white seductress.
It's described as an urban Adam and Eve story, and indeed Dutchman is filled with temptation and foreboding, with Mr. Jamarr wearing a suit and tie, and Ms. Engel a clinging vine of a flower child on a quiet cross-town train at night. She seems to know everything about him, which is unnerving, and perhaps even demonic. Or it may just make her a figment of his own imagination. Either way, he slowly warms to her entreaties.
There's a strange, riveting musicality to both of their performances. Ms. Engel's speech is like soft and taunting jazz, while Mr. Jamarr is reluctant, then romantic, till he grows frustrated–as if he finally hears a kind of be-bop drum solo in his head that rules a newfound rage in blank verse. The stage is littered with Eden-like apples she's bitten into and ruthlessly cast aside, along with the usual throwaway trash under the subway car benches. Not to mention the occasional drunk (the always excellent Jeremy Thomas).
And, as winning and affable as Mr. Jamarr is, a perfect "Twilight Zone" ending must still cap everything off, turning a certain kind of desire into a certain kind of racial trope, where the next stop is a certain kind of destruction.
Dutchman runs through February 18, 2024, at Soul Siren Playhouse, Greenfinch Theater & Dive, 2525 South Jefferson Avenue, St. Louis MO. For tickets and more information please visit www.playsiren.com.