GROUP: Azuka Theatre Company
ATTENDED: Sun., September 15, 8 p.m.
CLOSES: Sun., Sept. 29
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: "A young white man and a young black man meet on a D train to the Bronx and strike up a conversation. It's 1992."
WE THINK: Two (apparent) strangers meet. One wants to interact, the other is understandably wary. We've seen this situation before — Edward Albee's The Zoo Story comes to mind. In both plays, the manic talker has an agenda.
Greg Keller's acclaimed drama has only two characters, which means the action relies heavily on revelation, so revealing much here would be wrong. Struggling young black man Eric (Brandon Pierce) eventually confesses his connection to well-off young white man Steve (Brendan Dalton). Both performances are powerfully emotional and dynamic, directed for size and impact by Kevin Glaccum. A gun appears, and we all know what that means.
Dutch Masters is set in 1992. Why? No cell phones, so Steve is more isolated, more dependent on Eric once they leave the D train for Eric's Bronx 'hood. It's also a time of racial tension in America (what, today isn't?), particularly in New York City. Events are referenced.
So, Eric and Steve would be about 40 today. Would they be more racially sensitive, more tolerant, more at peace with their very different places in the world? Keller doesn't say, or even speculate; the play stops rather than ends, which is its biggest fault. While a tidy transformation or final embrace would be condescending, we'd like to hope that something might come from this confrontation.
Divides persist, not only between races but between economic classes. All we know after 75 minutes is that both young men feel bad, and will continue to feel bad. That ain't good, but it feels true.