#15. I read and saw “The Help.” I enjoyed both. After my friend Steve saw it, we chatted about a pivotal scene. I explained how the book had described it. Steve said that he should have read the book. I disagreed that that was a necessity. The novel and the movie were successful stand alone pieces. Some of the detail on the film screen was missing but it didn’t interfere with the general message. Adaptation is all about streamlining.
Court Theatre presents the World Premiere of the INVISIBLE MAN. A young black man struggles with self identity. His idealism establishes a strong work ethic. He is empowered to become an enlightened man. On his quest from the South to Harlem, he encounters a variety of people. Some help. Some hinder. All leave a mark. He is traumatized, lobotomized, and fortified. He refuses to become a stereotype of a black man. He wants to help his race overcome oppression through educated strategies. He becomes the voice of the Brotherhood. But who is he really working for? Who are his brothers? INVISIBLE MAN says a lot! Some of it helps. Some of it hinders. All leave a mark.
I did not read Ralph Ellison’s novel. But Playwright Oren Jacoby did. His ambitious task was to boil down a novel that took seven years to write into a stage play. Jacoby tells the story over three acts. It’s seemingly by-the-book epic. Jacoby commits to too much information. There is a plethora of detail especially in Act 1. Scenes of incest and bar brawling are interesting but rather superfluous. Initially, I’m collecting all these stories within the story. The descriptive snippets are disjointed but I don’t want to miss anything relevant. At the midpoint of Act 2, I realize I can let go of a lot of the earlier stuff. The play settles into its true essences. The fog clears. The visibility factor is 100%
Under the masterful direction of Christopher McElroen, the scenes transition with stylized choreography. The movement captivates. And the versatile, talented cast tackle the black/white issues from all angles. Leading the tour de force ensemble is the formidable Teagle F. Bougere. From start to finish, Bougere gives a magnificently, exhausting performance. His preface and epilogue monologues are solid bookends supporting the surplus of material. Shedding light on the racial subject matter, Scenic Designer Troy Hourie and Lighting Designer Josh Culbert work together to illuminate the stage. It’s bulb-tastic!
There is a lot of powerful stuff to see and hear in the INVISIBLE MAN. To make this classic novel a staged masterpiece, some of the scenes need to disappear. OR make Ellison's novel required reading to ensure patrons comprehend the inclusion of all the subtlety.
A man incapable of invisibility, James describes it with ‘high wattage performances.’
Running Time: Three hours and ten minutes includes two intermissions
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis
Based on Ralph Ellison’s novel
Adapted by Oren Jacoby
Directed by Christopher McElroen
Wednesdays, Thursdays by 7:30pm
Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm
Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Thru February 19th
Buy Tickets at www.courttheatre.org