Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Emperor Jones

photo: Carol Rosegg

I finally caught up with Irish Rep's celebrated production of O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, one of only two shows to be featured on both Brantley and Isherwood's year-end best lists at the Times. It's easy to see why the production, now enjoying a commercial run at SoHo Playhouse, has been almost universally praised - Ciaran O'Reilly's directorial vision and John Douglas Thompson's raw-nerve performance fully meet the challenge of the "problematic in this day and age" dialect (be prepared to hear the "N" word regularly amid a lot of "sho' nuff"-style speeches.) Most compellingly, the production mixes puppets with actors to create a theatrical landscape that brings fresh vitality to O'Neill's depiction of the dictator's decline into powerlessness and mental deterioration.

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