Marcus Gardley taps into some fascinating, and for many little known, history in his new play "the road weeps, the well runs dry."
The drama, a Latino Theater Company presentation at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, is set in a fictionalized version of the town (known today as Wewoka, Okla.) that was settled by black Seminole freedmen, who had migrated from Florida along the Trail of Tears and established their own free society in mid-19th century racist America.
Exploring this hybrid culture — part Native American, part black — is a tantalizing prospect. But what the playwright does with the history is not as compelling.
Essentially, Gardley has written an epic fantasy so rife with melodrama that it's easy to forget that there's a real-life basis to the play's locale. Contrivances pile up and the action grows frenzied, making it hard to take seriously the political, cultural or psychological dimensions of this world.
This overstuffed and tonally inconsistent drama is instigated by the conflict between the town's two most powerful men, Trowbridge (Darrell Dennis), a full-blooded Seminole sheriff, and Number Two (Demetrius Grosse), his deputy, who's described in the playbill as "a Black god." Their bond of love (more than just platonic) turns to hatred, and the ensuing cycle of revenge plays out over generations.
Shirley Jo Finney, whose deft staging of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "In the Red and Brown Water" at the Fountain Theatre was roundly and deservedly praised, has trouble with the moving parts of this sprawling tale. It feels like a workshop production of a play that is still a work-in-progress.
Gardley's attempt to construct an alternative African American myth is almost Aeschylean, but his plot is so eventful that the play's symbolic meaning barely has a chance to register.
'the road weeps, the well runs dry'
Where: Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 17.
Contact: (866) 811-4111 or http://www.thelatc.org
Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
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