By Marcina Zaccaria
André Holland has had an exciting journey since the success the 2016’s Moonlight, (Academy Award for Best Picture). With a background in acting (Broadway’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and A Wrinkle in Time), he has every sense of what drives a story. In Dutch Masters, playing at the Wild Project, locations like 145thStreet become a curiosity, a directorial playing field to explore.
A shiny black wall, designed by Jason Simms, creates a void where two young men, 18-22 stand out. Loud subway sounds rumble. Near graffiti, their images can be easily lifted from the stage and taken to the screen. Beyond race politics and a high that they share, Eric and Steve discuss their interests. Their greatest revelation, however, happens in the last third of the show, when Steve notices that he has previously seen the sofa in Eric’s home. Eric and Steve slowly realize that their mothers knew each other. One mother was the housekeeper. One mother had the jewelry. Slowly, their stories became intertwined, and then, the housekeeper was suddenly fired.
When you find culture somewhere, whose is it? Dutch Masters reignites such longer debates. Nobody wants what wasn’t there. But, yours is mine, and what’s mine is ours. In the past, there were memories about two children and two good mothers. What’s there now is the sense of being taken from, and the short-sighted notion that all will never be made right again.
Rage and indignation follow. Holland loves a good script. He also has every sense of pacing of the play, written by his former NYU colleague, Greg Keller. His script calls for frequent shifts in status, and the filmic quality of the performance feels like additional scenes could easily be spliced in. Holland also seems to love the everyday slice of life, perhaps, a vision of his younger self. Eric, played by Ian Duff, is extraordinarily present. Steve, played by Jake Horowitz (David Cromer’s Our Town), builds moments with an incredible sense of truth. Though the artistic team loves art, the characters are not really the art that they are making. Instead, they are absolutely inhabited people, embodied on stage, completely living in the moment. Their continuous story is a testament to the times that matter.
In this small theater in the East Village, we can look in and look out. When the home space is revealed at the end of the play, bright colored flowers grace the wall. Pictures of younger relatives are on one side of the stage while landscape portraits are on the other. There is a sofa, with a lovely golden throw. Lights designed by Xavier Pierce shine brightly from the sides. Interpreted by Director André Holland, the stage becomes a mirror to a very recent past.
Photos: Spencer Moses
Dutch Mastersis playing at The Wild Project, located at 195 E. 3rdStreet in NYC, until April 21.