By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Chicago Crusader
The national political scene has undergone some off-kilter experiences that don’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. The Republican Party is looking for a more progressive identity leading up to election season. Enter Carlyle Meyers, an ambitious African-American lawyer working for the party who agrees to share why he became a member of the GOP. The result is hilarious and startling satire—an insightful and bold examination of the hot-button racial issues facing America.
This new Goodman production playing in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre is called Carlyle, and it is a hilarious take on how a young, Black man is molded into a Republican, with the requisite white wife, after a life of privilege. Carlyle’s father is a bourgie man who was a closet Republican who hid his conservative ideals from his late wife. Carlyle goes to school and then is accepted into a college prep school where he is one of only a handful of Black students. According to Carlyle’s world, the other Black students are of the stereotypical “ghetto” type; one becomes pregnant and is expelled, the other is found dealing drugs and is expelled, as well.
This is all while Carlyle partakes of drugs with the white students in their home, with the white father even suggesting that the students don’t go into the “risky” town of Stanford, CT, but call for a delivery service instead.
The play also imagines—according to Republican ideals of everyone carrying a gun—that the Trayvon Martin case would have turned out differently, with Trayvon killing George Zimmerman.
This play caught me off guard. It was funnier than I had imagined, even though deep hitting with takes on social constructs like affirmative action, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and whites’ perceptions of Black youth.
The play runs until May 1, so there is still time to get a look at just what else is going on. The playwright Thomas Bradshaw and actor James Earl Jones II spoke with the Crusader.
Bradshaw cited his reasons for writing Carlyle. “I wanted to write a play about how a Black person becomes a Republican, I didn’t want to make fun of anyone. I don’t need to join the crowd of people mocking Black Republicans.”
Jones who plays Carlyle was excited to win the title role and says he learned more about the ideals of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Edward Brooke III – all African American, all Republicans.
Jones says that he feels all voters—no matter what their affiliation—can learn from the play. “I know that this is a fictional character, but the journey that Carlyle takes – the way he found himself, and in-turn, the Republican Party, is a very interesting one.”
The Crusader asked whether there is an “eye-popping” response to Blacks who claim Republican as their party. “I think that most Black Republicans that we see on TV are a bit of a carnival act. They are many times sensationalized and over the top, with their ideas and their general tone. It’s not just enough to be an anomaly; they have to be almost seemingly hateful of their own race,” Jones said. “I think that many of us want to work for what we earn. Many of us don’t want to feel as though the government is taking care of us. But the way that so many African-American Republicans say some of these things, it makes them seem even more of an almost unrealistic human being.”
He reflected on the world premiere, saying that he’ll forever remember playing the title role in a world premiere at one of the most prestigious theaters in the country. However, this “play” role is nothing compared to reality. “The role that I will always cherish the most is my role as “Dad” to my beautiful daughter Semaje. I’m a single dad and I can’t think of a role that motivates me more every day.”
To check out “Carlyle” at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, call the box office at 312.443.3800 or visit the website.
Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead is the story of legendary jazz trumpeter, great film
Miles Ahead is the story of jazz trumpet master Miles Davis during a period of time that he had taken a break from performing and was just finding himself or finding himself through sex, drugs and alcohol misuse. This film is a project of Cheadle’s that has been long in the making. He directed it, co-wrote the script and with much swagger stars in the title role. He channels Davis expertly, from what I know of Davis and his performances—with the raspy voice and super cool, don’t give a heck demeanor.
“Miles Ahead” is set in the mid- to late-1970s and takes much poetic license in re-imaging Davis’ stronghold on a session tape that his record company is trying to get their hands on, and one that Davis is desperately trying to keep in his possession until he gets paid. Entering the picture is a Rolling Stones writer who wants to write about Davis’ comeback (a term that Davis loathes). Consequently, Davis enlists him as his “wing-man” or driver, to help Davis score cocaine and run after the label bad guys who have managed to steal the tape right from under Davis’ nose. But at the time they steal the tape, Davis’ nose is being filled with what the movie portrays as his favorite pastime—cocaine.
Davis meets one of his wives Frances Taylor, played by the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi, and through flashbacks of his career and “off-the-rails, creative” adventures that include a car chase with a gun, Cheadle displays an exciting bio of Davis’ life as an innovator of funky jazz music, which Davis prefers to call “social music.”
Davis’ marriage to Francis is fraught with joy and pain, as they go from a happy couple to one that is estranged and, in the end, Francis runs away, fearing for her safety, as Davis’ temper and abuse gets out of hand.
The music is great, the costumes and old Cadillac are equally as great in “Miles Ahead,” which is playing everywhere in the Chicago area.