The best reason to see Topdog/Underdog in
its limited engagement at Actors Theater of Louisville is the mind-blowing
performances of Stephen Tyrone Williams
as Booth and Don Guillory as
in the Pulitzer Price-winning play by
Suzan-Lori Parks. As two African-American brothers whose father gave them those
names "as a joke," they live together in a seedy rooming house and constantly lament their unfortunate
circumstances that began with parental abandonment. Their promiscuous mother
first deserted them. Two years later, their alcoholic father did the same.
Separately they've tried hustling with the
three-card monte street scam, with
more successful than Booth. In the game
of life, they've learned they must con or be conned. Their identities seem
fluid as they shift poses and clothing (designed by Susan Neason) in their
cramped quarters (well conveyed by scenic designer Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams).
in a stovepipe hat and beard, has taken a demeaning job posing as the
assassinated President in an arcade shooting booth. Booth deludes himself that marriage with a
woman named Grace will change his fate.
Director Will MacAdams moves scenes forward with high
intensity. Foreshadowed from the start
is the Cain and Abel story. When the
eruption finally comes, it's devastating.