It’s a performance about parents and children, about generations and time, about a beautiful, troubled nation, about race, about a father imagining a reconciled future for his son, about a father, who is also a son, protesting oppression by telling stories from his and his father’s life to strangers in the darkened theatres of Broadway, Yale Rep, the Mark Taper Forum, the West End.
It’s a performance about collaboration across barriers and its limits, about authorship and embodiment, about identity, about the sacrifices that dignity makes to survival, about revival and resurrection and international fame and fortune, about betrayal and friendships and ego, about telling a story that comes true and one that doesn’t and the distance between them.
Lights up. We see the father as a young man. We see his son playing him, telling stories from his father and his grandfather’s lives. We see the understanding between these men and their three generations. We see the ways in which there will never be understanding. We see both the father and the son’s performances simultaneously, superimposed, occupying the same utopian time.
Because history repeats itself, because the library sits across the table from you, because young people think democracy came after Mandela’s release, because the past is a nightmare from which the father is trying to awake, because he dreams of running, escaping, jumping, because there are so many memories, so much baggage, because the performance cuts close to the bone.
We see them acknowledge each other. We see the great palimpsest: the father, young in the echoes of his son’s performance, the son aged in the echoes of his father’s revival. We see their imagined future come to momentary fruition. We see it disappear. The grandfather, long dead, speaks, “Never call me to see your play. That’s not a play. It’s a political meeting.” Blackout.