Monday, March 5, 2012


When a Confederate soldier, wounded and weary, returns from war to Virginia, he finds his family has fled and his home is in ruins.  General Lee has already surrendered at Appomattox and President Lincoln is soon to be assassinated.  Caleb DeLeon, barely able to stand on a leg with a bullet lodged in it and gangrene setting in, faces a bleak future as he reunites with the two slaves, now free men, who share his Jewish upbringing and the sober task of survival.

Hartford Stage will present the gripping and emotion laden drama “The Whipping Man” by Matthew Lopez for its Connecticut premiere until Sunday, March 18.  In the aftermath of the Civil War, this trio of men meet in the remnants of the DeLeon mansion where each has strong and vivid memories of the past and a mountain of secrets that beg to be revealed.

Josh Landay’s Caleb is afraid his conduct in battle will be made known, so fearful that he allows his former slaves Simon, an honorable and righteous Leon Addison Brown and John, a resourceful, angry and guilt-ridden Che Ayende, to amputate his leg rather than go to a hospital.  The three men share a history, one that is festering with sores that must be excised if they are going to survive.

With the advent of Passover, Simon tries to promote healing by celebrating the Seder, a ceremony echoing the slaves being freed by Pharoah, a contrast to his and John’s plight.  The specter of Caleb’s father and his inglorious deeds, of sending both men to be whipped, haunt the candle-lite tradition.  When Simon sings “Go Down Moses,” while breaking hardtack instead of matzoh, the bitterness of enslavement and the powerful promise of freedom are clearly defined.  Hana S. Sharif directs this compelling tale that is haunting in its message, on a stage strikingly set by Andromache Chalfant and eerily illuminated by Marcus Doshi.

For tickets ($54.50-90.50), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Be emotionally seared as the raw feelings and resentments surface to swirl and catch fire in the candlelight of the Passover tradition.

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