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Shows Worth Seeing:

Father Comes Home from the Wars
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.


No one writes better than Suzan-Lori Parks about self-inflicted wounds that reflect guilt on others. And few playwrights are more adept than her at lending stories the flavor of national myths—myths that she ruthlessly deconstructs with her wryly critical take on race. Father Comes Home from the Wars is excellent testimony to both strengths—a three-part, three-hour saga about a slave who, for the dubious promise of freedom, agrees to follow his master (a Confederate officer) as an orderly through the Civil War. Clever, complex, disturbing, at times hilarious, this is one of Parks’s most accessible dramas. It is written in a fluent and easygoing prose that’s easy to follow but skimps on none of the poetic qualities that have made her dramatic language so distinctive and compelling: the cool and composed garrulousness, the staccato, repetitive choral effects, the anomalous dumb-but-smart jokes that crop up out of nowhere.

The story, although leavened by comedy, is heartbreaking. The ironically named protagonist Hero—played with deep sympathy and ferocious power by Sterling K. Brown—twists himself into ethical knots trying to justify his decisions. Yet circumstances keep arising to ensure that he never has clear moral alternatives to choose from, or even firm ground on which to develop a personal moral compass. He hurts everyone around him while trying to do justice to himself, and Parks, to her great credit, will not let him off the dramatic hook. The play mercilessly probes Hero’s conscience, ultimately leaving him so morally naked that you can hardly bear to look at him. Director Jo Bonney wisely keeps the mood light and fun throughout, clearly understanding that the material needed no superimposed heaviness.

This play is a special event, not to be missed. And don’t even think about leaving before Part 3 or you’ll miss the talking dog pricelessly played by Jacob Ming-Trent.



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