Written by Matthew Lopez, ‘The Whipping Man’ is set in Richmond, Virginia in April of 1865, just as the Civil War is coming to an end. It is the story of a Jewish Confederate officer named Caleb, who returns from war to find his family home in shambles. He arrives late one night having suffered severe injury, to find two former servants, Simon and John, to be the only ones at the home; with all the others having fled to safety elsewhere. The moments and conversations that take place between the three men, over the following few days, will forever change their lives and how they view one another.
With a detailed scenic design by Charles Morgan, the play takes place in the foyer of a once grand home. What the audience sees however, is a room with broken windows and exposed walls with little left to indicate its’ once vibrant interior. The lighting design by Kevin Frazier was pleasingly done and played off the set beautifully, casting shadows and allowing light to find its way into the home in a seemingly natural way. The music selections used before each act and during the scene changes were strong choices by sound designer Christopher Colucci and featured a mix of instrumental and sung spirituals.
While this dramatic play deals with some serious themes, there are many moments of light humor and genuine human interactions that keep the audience engaged. Directed by Howard Millman, the cast features Taurean Blacque as Simon, Robb Douglas as John, and Will Howell as Caleb. Though there were some line flubs, some points of mumbling and variations in the strength of their Southern accents, overall the trio gave compelling and often emotionally driven performances. The men had believable chemistry between them and displayed the wide range of intense emotions their characters had to deal with over the course of the play.
This play and its story are unlike any I’ve seen before, even though their themes of freedom and forgiveness have often been used. Watching this play was both an interesting and thought-provoking experience. “Powerful” and “Wow” were both words I overheard from multiple audience members opening night as they trickled out of the theatre. Having giving the production a standing ovation, it is clear they were moved by not only the incredible story but the strong performances. ©
This production is rated R due to adult language and intense images. ‘The Whipping Man’ runs two hours including intermission and plays on the Peterborough Players stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, through July 2nd. For tickets call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org. Photo Credit: From left to right: Taurean Blacque, Robb Douglas, Will Howell. Photo Credit Tyler Richardson.
Angelica has an A.S. in Theatre, earned a specialty degree in Shakespeare from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in Psychology from SNHU. In addition to writing, she stays busy teaching dance and choreographing for a local studio.
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/