Gritty, powerful “Topdog/Underdog” at Gamm


While Artistic Director Tony Estrella is off performing at Massachusetts’s Huntington Theatre, he has brought in two powerful Brooklynbased actors to play the roles of brothers Lincoln and Booth in Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog.”

Director Cliff Odle creates the somber atmosphere by setting the two-act play in the round (Or should I say square) on a raised stage representing Booth’s sparse rented room.

To get to your seat, you must pass by Gamm’s darkened original seating area and a long corridor before entering another world.

Booth (Marc Pierre) is  the younger brother whose abandoning parents left him with the responsibility of caring for Lincoln (Anthony T. Goss) who has squandered their small inheritance.

Booth is interested in pursuing “economic opportunities” by learning his brother’s former con of three card monte. But Lincoln has just started a new job portraying a white-faced Abraham Lincoln (Did I mention the brothers are Black?) at a local arcade.

Booth allows Lincoln to stay with him temporarily and the two spend a few days together at times bonding, and at times fighting as the two recall their past, trying to deal with the present, and dreaming for a better future.

The two actors are excellent. Parks’ writing is sharp, to the point, but at times difficult to catch as she writes in the dialect of street-wise inner city characters.

We never see the third character, Booth’s girlfriend, Grace. At times I wondered if she really existed.

We learn about the brothers’ checkered history and feel for them as if we doubt if they are ever going to rise above their situation.

It all comes down to the final intense, allegorical scene, which will leave you breathless.

“Topdog/Underdog” is at times a tough play to watch. You feel for the brothers and doubt if there is any hope for them. They let you into a world that most of us never experienced.

A warning that there is a great deal of profanity and street language that may offend some.

“Topdog/Underdog” is at Warwick’s Gamm Theatre through October 1. Call 723-4266 for reservations.


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