Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Native Son" ☼ ☼ ☼

Nambi E.  Kelley's adaptation of Richard Wright's classic "Native Son" looks great. Director Seret Scott keeps the characters zipping in and out of Giulio Cesare Perrone's porous set. The story revolves around Bigger Thomas (Jerod Haynes) and Bigger never stops moving. He leaps up staircases, dives through windows, jumps from one door to another, plays around with his girl and moves back and forth chronologically, while at the same time committing a few heinous crimes. There is no time for reflection.

Which is a shame. We re-read Native Son after we saw the show. In the book, we see Bigger for what he is, a frightened, angry black man unable to understand let alone deal with his demons. The issues he faces resonate deeply with us. But in the play we get little understanding, only angst and emotion. At the end, Bigger stares out at us as the police are closing in. He is confused. So are we. Lights out.

We love William Hartfield as the Black Rat, the dark side of Bigger's nature. Dressed in a dark fedora pulled down so we cannot see his expression, the Black Rat is Bigger's voice of survival.

  Rosie Hallett and Adam Magill are excellent as the well-meaning but preposterously dense young white couple. Patrick Kelly Jones plays detective Britten, whose viciously racist language makes us hear all too clearly the demented world of Richard Wright's Chicago in the late 1930s.

 RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Native Son" Three Stars, principally because we all need to hear more Richard Wright. Enjoy the action on stage, then go home and read the book.

"Native Son"
Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
Through Feb 12

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