Theater review: A FREE MAN OF COLOR

November 29, 2010

In my theater pantheon, John Guare looms large. Along with Richard Foreman‘s Rhoda in Potatoland, Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls…, Robert Patrick‘s The Haunted Host (starring Harvey Fierstein), and the Wooster Group‘s Nayatt School, the original production at the Public Theater of Landscape of the Body was one of a handful of productions that smashed my young playgoing brain into pieces. I’ve followed his work closely ever since.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Guare’s new play A Free Man of Color for years, since it was first put on the schedule at the Public, under the direction of George C. Wolfe. It got scratched from the Public, supposedly for financial reasons but really — we learned from the New York Times a few weeks ago — over artistic differences with Oscar Eustis. Happily, Lincoln Center Theater picked it up and has spared no expense putting up this extravagant piece of work.

My review has just been posted on, saying in part:

Jeffrey Wright in "A Free Man of Color"

“Few of his works have ever shied away from wildly imagined multiple narratives sprawling in time, space, and dimension. Still, Guare has outdone himself with A Free Man of Color. Here he plays theater nerd as hip-hop DJ, mashing up big swatches of classic dramas (William Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Ben Jonson’s Volpone, The Merchant of Venice and Don Giovanni, to name only the most obvious), in order to tell the story of New Orleans circa 1801 as a unique crossroads of freedom and slavery, geography and imagination, race and racism, American history and American dreams, Europe and Africa, perched halfway between the Caribbean Islands and the Mississippi River.”

You can read the complete review online here.

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