May 23, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Theater Review: Laurence Fishburne Brings His Thurgood To The Geffen Playhouse

Editor-at-Large

Laurence Fishburne’s award-winning acting credits are too voluminous to list, but certainly one of his seminal roles was that of Morpheus in the Matrix film series. That said, reprising his role as the iconic jurist Thurgood Marshall, earns Fishburne a place as one of America’s most treasured actors. His dazzling characterization has already earned him a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding solo performance, and a Tony nomination for best performance by a leading actor.

This powerful play, written by George Stevens, Jr., and directed with the utmost of delicate skill by Leonard Foglia, is a 95-minute monologue and was recently performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C., the sets of which were moved to California lock, stock, and barrel.

We first meet Thurgood as an old man in the Howard University Law School Auditorium. He begins to tell his story, a roller coaster ride back to his childhood, tracing the people, places and events, including the seminal 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education challenging the Separate But Equal Doctrine, that led up to his becoming the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Fishburne limps on stage with the help of a cane, his vocal and physical interpretation befitting a man of advanced years and in short order, it becomes apparent that he has crawled into the heart and soul of the masterful Civil Rights advocate.

As a young boy, his blue-eyed father would take him to court so he could hear the proceedings, followed by lively, heated discussions at home. Marshall muses, “I had this habit of always saying what was on my mind.” In his college days at Howard University he was somewhat of a ladies man, confessing, “I was pinned to seven coeds at the same time.”

As Fishburne moves through the various phases of Marshall’s remarkable life, he captures the subtle vocal and physical changes of his character. Again, with restrained, but brilliant direction by Stevens, Fishburne creates an entire cast of characters – his mother, father, his girlfriend Buster, who becomes his first wife, Supreme Court justices, southern judges, his teachers, close friends, etc., endowing each of the characters with their own physical and vocal signatures. Particularly clever was the use of his jacket as a prop which, when removed or put back on, signaled yet another legal confrontation – subtle, but an effective stage craft.

Told with a combination of pathos and humor, we hear stories about Thurgood’s drinking and his days as a waiter in a private club where he was constantly called the “N” word, but because he was getting a $20 tip after each meal, he made up his mind not to fight until the tips disappeared, much to his father’s chagrin. Fishburne’s Thurgood recounts his experience as a waiter on a train in a “Whites Only” section and we get a glimpse of how he withstands humiliation with wit and a driving determination that propels him forward to challenge the unjust laws of the land.

We relive his mother’s experience as a schoolteacher whom, unlike the white teachers, was forced to scrub her classroom floor at night, and his terrifying near-death experience when friends rescued him from being lynched in a field by a mob of rednecks. He retells his confrontations with General Douglas MacArthur over segregated “Negro” soldiers during World War II, and with each fascinating story Fishburne’s grip on the audience tightens.

Thurgood talks about his relationship with Martin Luther King, who preached civil disobedience whereas “I decided to fight my battles in court.” “… I recognized the power and the majesty of the law… [and] used the law as a weapon.” And so he did, including winning the landmark case, which we hear him argue before the Supreme Court, on how the 14th amendment contradicts the Separate But Equal Doctrine. The court held, “The Doctrine of Separate But Equal has no place in American life.”

Whenever there was a legal issue to confront, Fishbourne would put up his fists in a playful boxing gesture saying, “We decided to take it to court.” He does a good Lyndon B. Johnson as he relives the compelling moment when Johnson appointed him Solicitor General of the United States, making him highest-ranking “Negro” in the U.S.

An exciting technical team supports Thurgood, beginning with the very effective set design by Allen Moyer, light design by Brian Nason which choreographed the scene transitions, and a very special projection design by Elaine J. McCarthy, who fills the upstage wall with compelling, oversized pictures that support the different locations of the stories being told, such as the inside of a train, the Supreme Court, pictured with two giant marble pillars, the interior of a schoolroom, the Lincoln Memorial, images of the KKK, the interior of the exclusive club depicted by a giant chandelier, and a shanty where we are told a little boy eats his first orange.

The extended standing ovation paid tribute to Fishburne’s tour-de-force, masterful performance, one of the most spelling binding to grace the Los Angeles stage.

Geffen Playhouse

10886 Le Conte Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90024

Run: Tuesday-Sunday Thru August 8

Tickets: 310.208.5454

in News
Related Posts

Los Angeles Metro Sees 15.9 Percent Increase in Median Rent

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Median rent of $2,258, according to recent report By Dolores Quintana The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the issues of housing...

New Renderings for Frank Gehry Hotel Development in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Project would include hotel, apartments, retail and a museum By Dolores Quintana Slowly but surely, plans for a  Frank Gehry-designed...

Shared Mobility Plummets in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Recent report also shows that nearly half of riders make over $100,000 By Sam Catanzaro Shared mobility use in Santa...

Christopher Dishlip Selected as Santa Monica’s New Assistant Director of Public Works

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Public Works Director Rick Valte announced the selection of Christopher Dishlip as Santa Monica’s new Assistant Director of Public Works....

Letter to Editor: Response to Himmelrich’s “We Walk the Talk” Column

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Beau Marks As a Santa Monica resident, I am dismayed by Sue Himmelrich’s response (“We Walk the Talk,” Santa...

Motional And UberEats Launch Autonomous Deliveries In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

There Are Plans For Expansion Into The Rest Of Los Angeles Motional, a global driverless technology leader, and Uber Technologies...

Winston Pies Opening Third Location In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

The restaurant used to be known as ButterCrust Pies Winston Pies is staying in Santa Monica when opening their third...

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Survive, But The Species May Not Be Doomed

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

Hope remains for the porpoise species not only survive but thrive with human help. By Stuart Wolpert The vaquita porpoise,...

The American Cinematheque Brings “Bleak Week” To Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre And The Los Feliz Three Theatre

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

33 Films From 18 Countries In One Week. By Dolores Quintana Sometimes when things are tough and you’re feeling down,...

Man Who Murdered His Family Members Pleads Guilty To Five Other Killings

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Escobar injured an additional seven other people as well.  By Dolores Quintana A man, Ramon Escobar, has pleaded guilty to...

The price of gasoline in Los Angeles County Has Experienced The Largest Increase Since February

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Gasoline prices in Orange County Have Also Increased By Dolores Quintana Regular self-serve gasoline in the county of Los Angeles...

Santa Monica Travel Summit Of 2022 Returns To Take On Tomorrow

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

The Event Was Held At The Jonathan Club On Santa Monica Beach By Staff Writer The 2022 Santa Monica Tourism...

City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program: Santa Monica Beat – May 16th, 2022

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program * Santa Monica High School Students...

1221 Ocean Avenue Complex Sold For Record Price

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Sold for a record price of $330 million. By Dolores Quintana The Irvine Company has sold 1221 Ocean Avenue to...

Office Construction Is Starting To Rise In Los Angeles

May 15, 2022

May 15, 2022

Property vacancies are still affecting growth.  By Dolores Quintana In March, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area had 3.2 million square...