By Colleen Steppa, Theater Reviewer
Thurgood is a history lesson in theater, a tour through the eras of civil rights seen from the life of one influential and amazing man, justice Thurgood Marshall. James Craven stars as Thurgood, who tells his life story as he revisits his old law school, Howard University. He runs us through the steps (and falls) that eventually brought him from student to lawyer to the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Thurgood is educational and his life touches on so many key points in the civil rights movement it’s difficult to believe that one man lived all the events he describes. From his involvement with the Baltimore NAACP, to the Murray v. Pearson ruling desegregating the University of Maryland Law School, to arguing Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, he was there. Thurgood Marshall’s life is truly inspiring and his impact on modern civil rights cannot be underestimated.
Though the material is important, the play seems to have been produced for education with less thought towards entertainment. Occasionally there is musical accompaniment or pictures that scroll on the back panel of the stage to illuminate images from Thurgood’s life, but other than that we are watching one man, on one very simple set, recalling stories in sequence to the audience. The script is funny at times and Neal R. Hazard’s performance is convincing and engaging, the format felt more like a classroom than theater. A friend who accompanied me likened the performance to a historical reenactor in a museum panel – interesting, but not theatrical per se. All in all, Thurgood would make for a good class trip but not a date. At this time in our history it is more important than ever that we expose ourselves to the truth in our history and understand where we came from so we know where we are going. Go to this play with the expectation and intent of educating yourself on a crucial, sometimes ugly, side of American history.
Thurgood is written by George Stevens, Jr., directed by Michael Robins, and stars James Craven as Thurgood Marshall. The show runs through March 19th at the Illusion Theater. The Minnesota Tour features stops in Blue Earth, Grand Rapids, Duluth, Faribault, Brainerd, Dawson, Hibbing and has remaining stops in March at Cambridge and St. James.
Tickets for Thurgood are $27-$35; Preview and student matinee tickets are $15, available at the Illusion Theater Box Office at 612-339-4944 or at illusiontheater.org.
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