Monday, April 23 , 2018, 6:38 pm | Partly Cloudy 58º

 
 
 
 

‘Whipping Man’ Reveals Post Civil War Repression, Reality

PCPA presents The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, a story that methodically peels back layer upon layer of repressed feelings, hopes, dreams and dark secrets. The play is being staged March 9 through 26 in Severson Theatre on the Allan Hancock College campus, Santa Maria.

The production plunges theatergoers into the heart-wrenching chaos of war-torn Richmond, Virginia. It's April 1865, the Civil War is over. Throughout the South, slaves are being freed, soldiers are returning home, and, in Jewish homes, the annual Passover holiday is being celebrated.

The Whipping Man features Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran actor Derrick Lee Weeden as Simon. Also, Artist Matt Koenig, PCPA resident, as Caleb; and second-year conservatory acting student Antwon D. Mason Jr. as John. Mark Booher directs.

The creative team includes: Abby Hogan scenic designer; Arnold Bueso, costume designer; Jennifer 'Z' Zornow, lighting designer; Elisabeth Weidner, sound designer; Rabbi Dov Gottesfeld, creative consultant; and Zoia Wiseman, stage manager.

Young Confederate officer Caleb DeLeon (Koenig) returns home, severely wounded, to find it in ruins and abandoned, save two former slaves, Simon (Weeden) and John (Mason). As the three wait for signs of life to return to the city, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave.

They dig up long-buried family secrets, and the bitter irony of Jewish slave-owning, while struggling with the reality of the new world in which they find themselves. These secrets from the past refuse to stay hidden as the play comes to its shocking climax.

Slavery and war, they discover, warp even good men's souls.

Recognizing this story, which touches on a multitude of themes including race, history, religion and family, Booher said:

"In all the awful, painful, brokenness of it, there are feelings that we humans are bound to one another, even when we don't want to be, even when there are profound realities and highly charged energies that would make our separation understandable.

"It is a play of rich and brutal situational context; it is a play about the inner man, dignity, decency, hate, longing, brutality, honesty, goodness, love, devotion." Booher said.

"It stands in the midst of many difficult questions about faith and family, war and slavery and freedom, wrong and forgiveness, body and spirit — and is brave enough not to offer simplistic answers or trite resolutions," he said.

Playwright Lopez observed in an interview with the Old Globe Theatre: "How, after centuries of bondage, do slaves become free people? What is the first morning like? How long does it take to register the immensity of that change? What, simply, do you do?

"For American slaves, in particular, there was no 'normal' to return to. Their deck wasn't reshuffled. It was replaced entirely. Those are the questions that prompted me to write The Whipping Man.

"My hope is that this play tells the story of the first tentative steps of the long, painful, hopeful journey that began in April 1865 and continues today," he said.

Visit www.pcpa.org/TheWhippingMan.html for more information.

— Craig Shafer for PCPA.

 
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