Dat ‘ole black theater magic

Emperor-Jones-webimage1Here’s some opening dialog that I lifted from a New York Times fluff piece about the excellent new production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones that’s about to open at the Irish Rep.

“Who dare whistle dat way in my palace? Who dare wake up de emperor? I’ll git the hide frayled off some o’ you niggers sho’!”

Imagine 1:15 minutes of that! It’s a ballsy show that’s presented exactly as O’Neill wrote it and I think these guys are going to take some heat for the manner in which the main character is portrayed. They throw every racial stereotype that blacks have been fighting against for decades onto the stage. But if you can hang with it, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

The show is a hallucinatory nightmare. The sequences of the Emperor, Brutas Jones, escaping through the jungle are eerily realized. Kudos to the stage, sound and lighting guys. They even employ creepy puppets to depict a dead man, a slave auction and various jungle horrors. John Douglas Thompson is excellent as the Emperor. Lotsa luck to him.

I’m no O’Neill scholar but this seems a very unlikely play for him to write. I think it was his first success.