The space where historical perspective and current-day attitudes crosshatch benefits "Frederick Douglass Now” at Bootleg Theater. Writer-performer
It’s a property that Smith, an Obie Award-winner for “A Huey P. Newton Story” and recently acclaimed for “
What he says may initially suggest a screed, yet by recasting the words of the famed runaway slave-turned-abolitionist into a 21st century context, including elements of poetry slam, rap music and revival minister, this short, sharp solo piece makes a striking statement about where America has come and still has to go in terms of race.
Indeed, Smith’s purposeful authorial skill is at its zenith, recalling the glory days of Spalding Gray and Holly Hughes, and his performance technique remains mesmeric. Repeated pin-drop silences alternate with chortles of laughter throughout, due in no small part to Smith’s wide dynamic range and less-is-more attack.
I won’t soon forget the subterranean effect of Douglass’ most trenchant comments, nor the ingenious means by which
The odd shaky transition could be rethought, but it's hard to cavil about such potent results. "Frederick Douglass Now" may be a polemic, yet it's a genuinely entertaining polemic with a lingering point and a personal benchmark for this remarkable artist.