"Topdog/Underdog" Closes at the Hattiloo This Weekend

"Now I'm completely connected to the Hattiloo," says Ekundayo Bandele, founder and executive producer of the Edge district's ambitious Afro-centric playhouse.

Bandele has served as producer, director, dreamer, playwright, carpenter, custodian, and bartender. Now he can add actor to his resume. He's taken on the role of Booth in Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog.

Topdog/Underdog is a classically inspired tale of greed and unexpected reversals of fortune; an exciting dramatic exercise exploring the topography of racial identity in America. Its characters, Lincoln and Booth, were abandoned by their parents, and came up like weeds, working their respective hustles and coping with soul-crushing poverty.

Parks is jamming on a familiar theme here. Her 1995 script The America Play, introduced an African-American Abe Lincoln impersonator pimping himself out as the target in a live-action shooting gallery. Topdog/Underdog also features a black Lincoln. This time he's a reformed three-card Monte sharp who now makes his living at an arcade impersonating America's 16th president. Booth is a smalltime hoodlum who wants to throw cards like his brother.

The metaphors in Topdog/Underdog are big. The language is rich and challenging, and Parks is fearless, holding absolutely nothing back.

Topdog/Underdog is at Hattiloo Theatre (656 Marshall, 525-0009) through March 30th. Tickets are $15 for adults.

by Chris Davis

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