Leslie Lee Goes Underground With The Book of Lambert
The Bible contains some pretty oddball passagesthe Revelations alone argue for the ancient existence of LSD. The Book of Lambert, the holy text that lends Leslie Lees new play its title, also offers some peculiar chapter and verse. Having broken up with his white girlfriend and suffered a subsequent mental breakdown, erstwhile English professor Lambert retreats to a disused subway tunnel with a band of followers. There he scribbles scriptures such as An Ode to Flatworms, Ribbon worms, and Roundworms and partial parables like The hounds bay in the evening May while Dolphia sits and cackles and throws unshelled peanuts in their gaping mouths. First Corinthians, it aint.
Lees The First Breeze of Summer, revived by the Signature Theatre last August, won him renewed acclaim and led him to return to Lambert, which hed abandoned 30 years ago. The revamp isnt successful. Lee has updated some of the language and likely fiddled with the plays mix of realism and absurdum, but hes left in a wealth of extraneous dialogue and some fairly unreconstructed views of women, sexual desire, and race. Yes, Lamberts girlfriend is portrayed as naïve, but its difficult to imagine a cutie so blinkered that shed exclaim to her black beau, Gonna be a SOUL sister. Yeah, Im gonna laugh like you black people do. Yeah, and Im gonna dance the way you all dance, too. Then she offers a helpful demonstration.
Like the script, Cyndy A. Marions direction doesnt require more than one dimension from her actors, though old hands Arthur French and Gloria Sauvé, and occasionally Clinton Faulkner as Lambert, transcend the text. Rather than include this play in Lees canon, its best consigned to the apocrypha.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in New York.