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Review: 'Father Comes Home from the Wars' raises provocative questions about slavery

But the play lacks momentum in the early going
Evgenia Eliseeva

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1,2 & 3” is the powerful tale of one slave’s decision to fight in the Civil War — on the Confederate side.

Though the trilogy of plays (which will eventually become nine) has some brilliant, thought-provoking moments, it gets off to a rocky start largely because its framework is loosely based on Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Like any good Greek tragedy, Parks’ drama boasts a chorus that processes, seemingly ad infinitum, the issue at hand.

The problem is this Chorus of Less Than Desirable Slaves mulling over whether or not Hero will go to war falls flat because the banter isn’t particularly engaging and, as a result, adds little but time to a nearly three hour production. Parks’ use of contemporary slang does help, but it needs some sass and sizzle in order to ignite the kind of spark that would leave you on the edge of your seat throughout the epic production.

Parks knows how to write it, but in the transition from page to stage something sucked the life out of “Part 1: A Measure of a Man.” And no matter how good “Part 2: A Battle in the Wilderness” and “Part 3: The Union of My Confederate Parts” are, it’s hard to recover the missing momentum.

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Benton Greene’s Hero packs the biggest emotional wallop explaining his decision not to run away in search of freedom, saying “I’m worth something, so me running off would be like stealing.” He’s also the catalyst for a powerful, eye-opening examination of loyalty, integrity and the potentially high costs of freedom.

His fiercely loyal companion Odyssey Dog (Jacob Ming-Trent), who had run away but returns in Part 3, provides most of the production’s light and levity. Who doesn’t love a playful talking dog with a sense of humor?

But the long, uninspired journey through Part 1 is a big price to pay to get there.

If you go

“Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3”

Through March 1st

American Repertory Theater

64 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA

starting at $25

617-547-8300

www.americanrepertorytheater.org

 
 
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