DUTCHMAN and THE SLAVE: Two Plays by LeRoi Jones


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There's an underground movement in the theatre today staffed largely by poets, e.g., Weinstein. Koch, O'Hara. Jones springs from that group and also from the more isolated achievements of Albee. Dutchman, currently a voguish Off-Broadway item, and Slave, unproduced as yet, are two fiery, fascinating, and ultimately ""fantastic"" dramatizations of the racial dilemma. The first, a subway interlude in which a white sexpot murders a Negro apparently with the connivance and/or indifference of the other passengers; the second, reversing the procedure, a projection into the future whereby, against an academic setting, a black revolutionary wrecks the lives of his former white wife and her husband. The dialogue is alternately savage and sly; the characterizations, especially in Dutchman, lively enough. Unfortunately, while the structure is naturalistic, the thematic intent isn't; the figures, meant to be Representative Types, never succeed as interchanging symbolizations of oppressed and oppressor. Nor do Jones' hallucinatory auras, his eleventh hour warnings, import much more than private rage and remembered humiliation. But his technical talents- vigorous and artfully ""repellent""- suggest, probably unconsciously, the first American approach to Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, and that, rather than Social Protest, is what makes the plays notable and the man a playwright to watch.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1964
Publisher: Worrow