The Most Dangerous Man in America (W. E. B. Du Bois): Theater review by Raven Snook
Well-intentioned but ill-conceived, Woodie King Jr.'s heartfelt mounting of the late Amiri Baraka's final play, about civil-rights pioneer W. E. B. Du Bois, is at best confusing, at worst, a bore. The New Federal Theatre founder and the politically charged poet-playwright (of Dutchman fame) collaborated for nearly half a century, and King used Kickstarter to fund this passion project, which stars former WABC reporter Art McFarland in the title role.
The show focuses on the African-American icon's later life, juxtaposing his radical speeches and 1951 Communist witch-hunt trial against scenes of common folk rallying behind him, with a coda set in Ghana where he died. Reportedly, Baraka's original draft was 250 pages (!), but even pared down to 40, it feels more didactic than dramatic, with clunky set changes and dull characterizations. It's a shame since the Du Bois legacy deserves to be spotlighted, but this is an ineffectual memorial.—Raven Snook
Castillo Theatre (Off-Off Broadway). By Amiri Baraka. Directed by Woodie King Jr. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission. Through June 28.