Friday, August 15, 2008


Not Michael Phelps, but Laurence Fishburne. I went to see him in the Broadway one-man show Thurgood on Wednesday night, and it was possibly the fastest standing ovation I've ever seen. People didn't even wait for him to walk out.

As you might have guessed, the show is about Thurgood Marshall, who narrates as if giving a lecture on his life and career, from childhood to retirement, at Howard University. It was written by George Stevens, Jr., who also wrote the miniseries about Marshall that I saw when I was very young. It's not an exaggeration to say that that miniseries changed my life. It gave words to a lot of issues, not only about race, that I probably couldn't have articulated myself at this point.

Fishburne is completely convincing as Marshall, salty, scrappy, passionate, and powerful, having fun with plenty of hilarious lines mixed in with the gravity of the landmark cases he tried. The staging was fine; the backdrop, an all-white embossed American flag, serves as a transparency screen. Projection switches from photographs relevant to what he's talking about to the Supreme Court building facade and interior, and there are sometimes even relevant sounds played. The only other speaker, however, is Earl Warren reading the decision in Brown v. Board.

I greatly enjoyed it, much more than the frankly rather over-artful Year of Magical Thinking last year, which was also a one-woman show (Vanessa Redgrave) at the same theater and similar staging. If you're in NYC, get thee to see it before it closes, which is very soon.

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