Sunday, October 15, 2023

Purlie Victorious

Last night, I got a chance to see Ossie Davis's legendary play Purlie Victorious, now back on Broadway as a vehicle for Leslie Odom, Jr., the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton.

While I enjoyed Odom's performance, I was much more impressed by Kara Young, who played Lutiebelle. While Davis wrote the part of Purlie for himself, he wrote Lutiebelle for his partner in art and life, his wife Ruby Dee. Since Lutiebelle is a naive Alabama girl who has to pretend to be a sophisticated college graduate, there are plenty of opportunities for humor, and Young milked them all.

New York theatre regular Jay O. Sanders plays the villain of the piece, Ol' Captain Cotchipee. Davis intentionally made the character a ridiculous stereotype of an old-school Confederacy-loving white landowner. Like Odom, Sanders delivers, but I was more interested in the Captain's son, Charlie, played with painfully shy innocence by Noah Robbins. Alan Alda played that role in the show's 1961 premiere.

The current production is directed by one of my favorite artists working in New York today, Kenny Leon. In addition to recently directing Hamlet in Central Park, Leon has also helmed star-studded revivals of Ohio State Murders and A Soldier's Play. Derek McLane, who designed the set for A Soldier's Play, came up with a brilliant new design for Purlie Victorious, where the set movingly transforms for the play's final scene.

If you have a chance to see the show, definitely check it out at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.