The Race-Blind Season
Three vintage American plays. And three fascinating and provocative examples of racially unconventional casting. We watched the trend play out in Clifford Odets’s The Country Girl, as Frances McDormand steeled herself against the false promises and crashing failures of Morgan Freeman. We saw it in the unjustly maligned all-black revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in which Anika Noni Rose and Terrence Howard offered a livelier, funnier, sexier, and far more credible Maggie and Brick than the last duo to hold the gigs on Broadway, Ashley Judd and Jason Patric. But it was S. Epatha Merkerson, as Come Back, Little Sheba’s cheerful, chatty, desperate Lola Delaney, whose performance, above all others this year, stayed with us: Her nakedly intimate portrayal of a lonely woman helplessly in love with an abusive drunk made a schematic but sturdy warhorse of a play into a devastating evening of theater. Come to think of it, that’s a second theme these three plays share: how to cope with, fight against, and survive your alcoholic husband.