“Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka, playing at the Castillo Theatre on West 42nd Street, is being performed by New Federal Theatre. Woodie King Jr. has decided to dedicate the theater’s 46th season to reviving Baraka’s work. “Dutchman” is a very powerful play to watch. The social commentary it makes about the way middle-class Black men are viewed by society is disturbing.
There is a strong message about Black men being viewed as sellouts when they are merely finding their identity and coping in society. The character of a white girl named Lula acts bipolar as she throws herself at this young, well-dressed Black man named Clay one minute and then says she knows his type and insults him the next. At first, he seems to think she is flirting with him, then he sees she is insulting him. She gets him so angry that he tells her off, slaps her and says that he has enough rage in him as a Black man to kill her and others on the train with them.
Baraka makes the point that many Black performers like Bessie Smith, who white people enjoyed listening to, were really telling white people off through their musical gifts. Smith did it through the lyrics in her songs.
This production is directed by King, and he’s done something I can’t remember seeing before: He has Ryan Jillian Kilpatrick, a light-skinned Black girl, playing the role of Lula. Wow, Woodie! But it works! Kilpatrick is intense in the role, as is her co-star Michael Alcide, who plays Clay.
This play will close March 8, so go out and experience it for yourself! For more information, visit www.castillo.org/dutchman.