A Poignant MTC TopDog/Underdog
Pulitzer Awardee Suzan-Lori Parks portrays the compelling and touching relationship between African American brothers Lincoln and Booth manifestiing their brotherly love and fraternal resentment as they live miserably in room without water and a toilet. The audience feels compassion for these brothers who have only themselves to find their way through the poverty they face as well as share their sense of humor throughout. Abandoned first by their mother and later by their father at an early age, younger brother Booth (Biko Eisen-Martin), a clever, swift moving thief, looks after older brother Lincoln (Bowman Wright), a tricky three card monte hustler who is divorced and without means to rent a place. Booth looks up to Lincoln, an addicted card hustler fighting to lose his addiction by wearing Lincoln’s top hat and cape to enact the main events in Abraham Lincoln’ life at a store front. His struggle to obliterate his addiction by playing a moral Lincoln helps him feel good but intensifies his conflict with going back to hustling the card tricks.. Booth’s relationship with girlfriend Grace menaces to have Lincoln find a place of his own. There are less tense moments when the brothers look back at the happier times in their early family life. But these moments are soon buried by the realization that first their mother and then their father left them to their own destiny. “Then it was you and me against the world,” says one brother to the other.
Can they survive if they give up making illicit money or robbing? And when Booth succeeds in getting Lincoln to show him the card moves Lincoln’s requires they play for big money. This leads to one brother losing his only savings given to him by one of his parents that will bring the action to a stirring melodramatic climax.
Expertly directed by Timothy Williams, the actors’ use of physical movement is well utilized in this piece consisting for the most part in a dialogue between two actors.
Stage sets by Mikiko Useugi and costumes by Callie Floor display the poverty surrounding the brothers and play an essential role in the dramatic action
Along with the realistic and gripping portrayal by Wright and Eisen-Martin of two poor jobless brothers presented in colorful street slang with lyrical rap during the card playing scenes., the piece is a heart wrenching presentation of fraternal warfare and love as well as a revealing testimony of the hardships of the African American struggle for economic and social survival.
TopDog/UnderDog plays until October 28st. For info call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org