HARLEM DUET                                                                                                                       

Written and Directed by Djanet Sears

Featuring: Virgilia Griffith, Beau Dixon, Tiffany Martin, Ordena Stephens-Thompson, Walter Borden

Tarragon Theatre: http://www.tarragontheatre.com/show/harlem-duet/

Robin Breon interviews Djanet Sears: http://www.aislesay.com/ONT-SEARS.html


Tarragon Theatre has started out with a strong remount of Djanet Sears’ many layered time traveling play, Harlem Duet, first produced by Nightwood Theatre in 1997. In her program notes Sears (who also directed this production) reminds us of the words spoken by both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Says Sears: “In 1963, after Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the March on Washington, Malcolm X told a journalist that Martin’s speech would become a nightmare before it was over.” Current events might testify to the fact that we have now fast forwarded into that looming nightmare and the “woke” movement may be just the remedy to jolt us out of our slumber.

As in the original production, the lovely underscoring of cello (Cymphoni Fantastique) and bass (Bryant Didier) remains woven into the tapestry of the play by Allen Booth’s soundscape that, in addition to King and Malcolm X, references the Declaration of Independence, Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Aretha Franklin and numerous others. The cast includes flawless performances by Virgilia Griffith, Beau Dixon, Tiffany Martin, Ordena Stephens-Thompson and Walter Borden.

As a woman of African descent who happens to act, write plays and teach at the university level for a living, Djanet Sears is a survivor of sorts. Most productions of new plays find a brief life on the stage for an initial run and then are heard again no more. Sears has written not one but two plays (The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God premiered in 2002) that have not only succeeded locally but have entered the international repertory of plays receiving regular productions over the last two decades. And that is no small achievement for any writer. This well received remount at Tarragon testifies to that.

Next up in Tarragon’s main space is the eagerly anticipated world premiere of Jason Sherman’s, The Message, which features R.H. Thompson as the professor and prophet, Marshall McLuhan opening on November 14th.


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