You may know that racism and poverty have always been in collusion. But you’ll still find yourself surprised and moved by the stories of struggle collected in Howard L. Craft’s incisive one-man play Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green. Directed by Joseph Megel and expertly performed by J. Alphonse Nicholson, Freight captures big historical truths in personal, idiosyncratic tales.
Abel Green, you’ll soon discover, isn’t one guy; he’s five, living in five different eras, confronting America’s rigged economy and its addiction to racial violence. Each vignette is distinct but patterned on the same plotline: Abel lands in trouble and gets rescued by a new “friend” — but salvation unexpectedly turns sour. In one “incarnation” he’s a minstrel performer, struggling to keep smiling and singing for white audiences after witnessing a lynching. In others he’s a betrayed preacher, a Black Panther, a witness to the AIDS crisis. Trains — from freight cars to New York subways — offer a recurring motif for this travel through time and space.
Craft’s meditation on race in America is clearly timely; what’s surprising here is his light touch. Humor and song leaven the evening, and a surreal ending offers an escape from Green’s troubled world. But your delighted temptation to follow him will remind you that our own universe remains so inhospitable to so many.
Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green
By Howard L. Craft
145 Sixth Avenue
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 28, 2015