(PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
SPECTACULAR, FANTASTIC, THE MUST-SEE, Play of the year; these are words we usually don’t use to describe a theatrical play or anything for that matter; however, this play at The Goodman Theatre is worth all these words and much, much more.
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks graces us with her masterpiece “Father Comes Home from The Wars: Part 1, 2 & 3;” a play that refreshes the soul with pure delight. Parks playwright composition is as poignant today as it was in the past as it connects us as humans as well as separate us from humanity.
People are faced with decisions every day, and every life should have the opportunity to navigate their destiny on this earth. However, one man, a Texas slave called Hero (Kamal Angelo Bolden) is forced to make a decision that will change the course of his life, and one life-altering mistake will make him despised among his people.
In the Civil War, when a man of color, was not considered human, but more like a boy to his owner, Hero faces a decision of a lifetime. A decision that can hunt the very soul of any man, a simple choice, that will play a massive role, could be catastrophic to his future and the one he loves.
Directed by Niegel Smith, artistic director at The Flea Theater in New York, is an incredibly bright light in the theater world. Smith, has been produced by Classical Theatre of Harlem, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Magic Theatre, New York Fringe Festival, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble and the list goes on and on.
Smith takes hold of Parks work of art and brings us into the life of Hero, a strong black man who has the misfortunate of having to choose to fight alongside his master, a Confederate soldier; who wants to keep men like Hero as a slave against those who are fighting for Hero's freedom. This master, Colonel played by the renowned William Dick wants Hero to go with him into the war and promises him his freedom once his returns but his slave wife Penny (Aime Donna Kelly) along with a few other slaves are gambling that he choose to stay.
The choices he makes can cause problems for him and the other slaves. Hero doesn't believe in running away, being brainwashed to think he's worth more as a good slave that obeys his master; which he proves when his friend Homer, played to perfection by Jaime Lincoln Smith finds out after his return from a failed escape.
When Part 2 begins we see, Hero’s master has captured a would-be captain from the Union army. Off into the war he never wanted to fight, Hero and his master, along with his captured soldier find themselves lost in the desert; listening to the sounds of war. When gunshot and bombs are igniting in the air and Hero is sent on an errand from his master; part two takes an interesting and somewhat intense turn.
The Union soldier, in pain from a leg injury sarcastically intimidates the Colonel by questioning his leadership abilities and command by letting Hero go out of his sight; boasting that Hero may have run away. The Yankee soldier infuriates the Colonel to the point he thinks of shooting the captured prisoner; however, Hero is a good slave and returns like a stray dog. The intense part comes when the Colonel asks the Union prisoner, a price for someone like Hero and the prisoner changed the script when he asked the Colonel, "How much he believes he ( The Colonel) would be worth.
His reply shuttered the soul when he replies with words that a white man's worth is priceless and that he is glad to be a white man; and much, much more! You could have heard a piece of hair drop to the floor after that statement. With one side shocked that he mentioned (actual) words that are usually kept private, to the other grasping at the audacities that someone would utter such racist remarks; this play had everyone on the edge of their seats; crying more.
When the Colonel, believes the war is getting too close for comfort, he orders Hero and get his things and follow him back to the safety of the Confederates. However, before Hero leaves, he granted the captured man, (whom we later find out is of the same nature as Hero), something he couldn't even give to himself…freedom! After determining that the captured captain (Demetrios Troy) was a private, Smith wanted one thing from Hero before he left. He wanted Hero to come with him. Tempted by the thought of freedom, Hero is sworn in as a private in the Kansas Colored brigade. He puts on his war-torn blue coat under his confederate jacket, then hugs his new friend but can't seem to remove the thought that the worth (value) his master placed on him, is worthless until he becomes his own man; and he marches on to be with the Colonial.
Part three is equally as stimulating and exciting, and without giving away the entire play, we find out if Hero comes home, or if Penny, his wife will be there waiting for him. Things are about to get very interesting! The last part has so many twists and turns that we thought we were looking at the soap opera, "As The World Turns.” And did we mention there was a talking dog; incredible and it works to perfection! Brittney Love Smith, role as Odyssey Dog, was brief but she nearly stole the show with her performance. Spot nor Lassie can compare!
All of the actors in this play were outstanding, and Kamal needs to receive some award for his brilliant performance. Antoinette Perry, where are you!
Parks, as Maya Angelo would say is a phenomenal woman; phenomenally. She is an American playwright, screenwriter, musician, and novelist. Her 2001 play Topdog/Underdog won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2002, and she was the first African American woman to achieve this honor for drama.
It is a storyline that is overwhelming, compelling and filled with moments of sadness, laughter, and a revelation rollercoaster.
Let's Play HIGHLY recommends Father Comes Home From The Wars a,t The Owen Theatre.
The only problem I see that Goodman will have is how to stop audiences from wanting to see it. We can see this being extended!
The cast includes:
KAMAL ANGELO BOLDEN (Hero/Ulysses)
SYDNEY CHARLES (Second)
RONALD L. CONNER ( Third)
WILLIAM DICK (Colonel)
BERNARD GILBERT (Runaway)
NICOLE MICHELLE HASKINS (Runaway)
AIME DONNA KELLY (Penny)
ERNEST PERRY JR. (The Oldest Old Man)
TYRONE PHILLIPS (Runaway)
MICHAEL AARON POGUE (Fourth)
BRITTANY LOVE SMITH (Odyssey Dog)
JAIME LINCOLN SMITH ( Homer)
DEMETRIOS TROY (Smith)
JACQUELINE WILLIAMS ( Leader)
PLUS BLUES MUSICIAN MELODY ANGEL, WHO APPEARS ON STAGE NIGHTLY
Goodman Theatre / Owen Theatre
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks
DIRECTED BY NIEGEL SMITH
MAY 25 – JUNE 24
Filed under: ChicagoNow