Wednesday, May 9, 2012

thinking back to the early '50s

Photo by Michael Brosilow

I've seen two plays at the Guthrie Theater in the past four days.  First, there is a new play called Are You Now or Have You Ever Been..?, which takes place in the early '50s.  It is written by Carlyle Brown, who has a part in the play, and tells the true story of poet Langston Hughes and his appearance before the Senator Joseph McCarthy hearings, a disgraceful moment in this nation's history.

The other play, which I just saw last night, is The Amen Corner, written by James Baldwin in the early '50s, and concerns the leader of a Harlem African-American church and her struggles to reconcile her faith to the conflicts of her personal relationships.

Both plays have moments of dragging (The Amen Corner just seems too long), but are saved by great acting, and, in the case of The Amen Corner, some soulful gospel music.  What makes Are You Now compelling is the scene in which Langston Hughes is appearing before the McCarthy committee, being attacked for his poetry and somehow having to prove that his poetry didn't show him to be a Communist.  It was not a proud time for free speech in this country.  The play is very effective.

Thanks again to the Guthrie for the blogger tickets.  It's been a very rewarding season for me.

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