Three New Productions Tackle Color Lines

Race and history trouble The Country Girl and Sound and the Fury; Thurgood gets them right.

As in earlier ERS adventures, one's never sure whether the company means to act out the story, stylize it, take its elements apart, or even, conceivably, burlesque it. What the company thinks of Faulkner, what experience of his novel it wishes to convey, remain mysteries buried in the soft wax of its faintly campy, noncommittal style. Especially in an era that views black history very differently from educated Southerners of Faulkner's generation, the event carries a tinge of spoofing the Southern Gothic clichés that the novelist's less intense, less reflective successors exploited to exhaustion. What reverberated in my head as I came away wasn't anything ERS had done, but the classic line from Ronny Graham's merciless 1952 parody of Truman Capote: "Just then the old house gave another lurch as the termites finished the west wing."


Odets's dour valentine to the theater: McDormand, Freeman, and Gallagher in The Country Girl
Brigitte Lacombe
Odets's dour valentine to the theater: McDormand, Freeman, and Gallagher in The Country Girl

Details

The Country Girl
By Clifford Odets
Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
212-239-6200

The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928)
By Elevator Repair Service, based on William Faulkner's novel
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
212-239-6200

Thurgood
By George Stevens Jr.
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street
212-239-6200

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Nothing lurches, blessedly, in Laurence Fishburne's performance of George Stevens Jr.'s Thurgood, a text as straightforward as the proudly jutting jaw by which Fishburne conveys his hero's determination. Thurgood Marshall, a classic instance of the man with the right qualities in the right place at the right time, became history, and Fishburne embodies, with fire, care, and craft, the landmark moments at which he did it. Along with the joy of reliving Marshall's historic moments, the show offers one great treat for theater lovers: the subtlety with which Fishburne shifts voice and body to play Marshall's antagonists, benefactors, and famous coevals. His Earl Warren ranks with Francis Jue's Bernie Jacobs in Yellow Face as the best nonwhite-to-white mimicry of the season.

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