PCPA – Pacific Conservatory Theatre presents a powerful story by Matthew Lopez, The Whipping Man, which methodically peels back layer upon layer of repressed feelings, hopes and dreams, and dark secrets. It’s playing in the Severson Theatre March 9 through 26.
Plunge into the heart-wrenching chaos of war-torn Richmond. It’s April, 1865, the Civil War is over and throughout the south, slaves are being freed, soldiers are returning home, and in Jewish homes, the annual celebration of Passover is being celebrated.
The Whipping Man features Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran actor Derrick Lee Weeden* as Simon. Also, PCPA Resident Artist Matt Koenig as Caleb, and 2nd year conservatory acting student Antwon D. Mason Jr. as John, under the direction of Mark Booher.
The creative team includes Scenic Designer Abby Hogan, Costume Designer Arnold Bueso, Lighting Designer Jennifer ‘Z’ Zornow, Sound Designer Elisabeth Weidner, Creative Consultant Rabbi Dov Gottesfeld and Stage Manager Zoia Wiseman.
Young Confederate officer Caleb DeLeon (Koenig) returns home, severely wounded, to find it in ruins and abandoned, save for two former slaves, Simon (Weeden) and John (Mason). As the three men wait for signs of life to return to the city, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, digging up long-buried family secrets, and the bitter irony of Jewish slave-owning, while struggling with the reality of the new world in which they find themselves. These secrets from the past refuse to be hidden forever as the play comes to its shocking climax. Slavery and war, they discover, warp even good men’s souls.
Recognizing this layered story which touches on a multitude of themes including race, history, religion, and family, Mark Booher said, “In all the awful, painful, brokenness of it, there are feelings that we humans are bound to one another, even when we don’t want to be, even when there are profound realities and highly charged energies that would make our separation understandable. It is a play of rich and brutal situational context; it is a play about the inner man, dignity, decency, hate, longing, brutality, honesty, goodness, love, devotion.” Booher added, “It stands in the midst of many difficult questions about faith and family, war and slavery and freedom, wrong and forgiveness, body and spirit – and is brave enough not to offer simplistic answers or trite resolutions.”
Playwright Matthew Lopez observed in an interview with the Old Globe Theatre, “How, after centuries of bondage, do slaves become free people? What is the first morning like? How long does it take to register the immensity of that change? What, simply, do you do? For American slaves, in particular, there was no ‘normal’ to return to. Their deck wasn’t reshuffled. It was replaced entirely. Those are the questions that prompted me to write The Whipping Man. My hope is that this play tells the story of the first tentative steps of the long, painful, hopeful journey that began in April 1865 and continues today.”
Visit www.pcpa.org/TheWhippingMan.html for more information.