Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 27, 2008


Hartford Stage, Hartford
through Nov. 16, 2008
By Bernadette Johnson

It’s not arbitrary that "Resurrection" cast members are identified in the program initially by their ages, then by the roles they play. From 10 to 60, the six male figures who bring this powerful drama to Hartford Stage are separated by decades. They share the same plight, however, lives rooted in the history of oppression of the black man, the context from which author Daniel Beaty draws so eloquently.

From 10-year-old Eric (Thuliso Dingwall) to The Bishop (Jeffery V. Thompson), a sexagenarian, there are no weak characters on this stage. Set against a single backdrop of a stylized cross, "Resurrection" tells the story of five black men and a boy who individually struggle with their collective past and personal demons all the while clinging to shared hopes and dreams, a vision that moves them beyond an “historical identity based on being property.”

The characters share the multi-level set for much of the 90-minute (no intermission) performance. Dingwall is the youngest cast member and holds his own remarkably well for a 10-year-old as a child scientist in search of a magic formula that will heal all ills. He is everyone’s hope, the future embodiment of “the better life.”

There are several powerfully moving scenes. In a tribute to black mothers who have sacrificed themselves for their sons, the litany “Dance, mama, dance” (for all the dreams you forgot) resounds, a plea increasing in intensity with each repetition. Che Ayende, as 30/Dre, recently released from prison and trying to build a new life for his “family,” his girlfriend and their baby, but seeing past mistakes catching up to him, delivers a heart-wrenching “how to be a man for you” monologue.

Not to be forgotten is 60/The Bishop, who adds a touch of humor Overeaters Anonymous style. It’s hard to know if the Amens from the front and center section were plants or spontaneous responses, but either way, they added a spark of authenticity to Thompson’s delivery.

Symbolism plays a role, as African robes yield way to tattered cloaks. Finally, although the ending seemed a bit too pat and predictable, there is great theatre here.