It's a historical fact: A racial bloodlust gripped the city of Omaha on the night of Sept. 29, 1919. About 15,000 people took to the streets and stormed the city jail, where they demanded--and were given--William Brown, an aged black man, crippled by rheumatism, who'd been accused of attacking a white woman. The crowd lynched the white mayor who tried to stop them. After hanging Brown, they riddled his body with bullets, burned it on a pyre, and dragged his remains through the town. A division of 1,600 soldiers was required to restore the peace. In Minstrel Show: The Lynching of Willie Brown, two itinerant performers calmly document the atrocities they witnessed firsthand, speaking directly to an audience which has been cast as a citizens' tribunal convened in the horror's aftermath.
In this riveting work of conscience and drama, Natalie Sowell's direction is an accomplishment, and Lakeetha Blakeney and Nathan Crocker present their truth with implacable dignity.
The two witnesses take their time and spin their tale. The jokes and samples from their stage show at first seem circuitous to the central theme. But don't be fooled--this pair never wastes words. In the end, the disparate threads of their tales bind the spectators--and then demand justice. That's why the original two-night run of this show last November made our year-end lists for Best Direction, Best Leading Performances and Best Production. It's back, with the original cast and crew, for three weeks. Don't miss it.
Thursday-Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, 3:15 pm, through Sept. 13. Pay-what-you-like preview ($5 minimum), Thursday, Aug. 21. Opening night fundraiser with reception, $15 minimum, Friday, Aug. 22. Post-show discussion, Sunday, Aug. 24. Manbites Dog Theatre, 703 Foster St., Durham. 682-3343. --Byron Woods.