The Lincoln Center’s limited production of John Guare’s drama “A Free Man of Color” opened November 18 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Though well-known as the author of “Six Degrees of Separation” and “The House of Blue Leaves,” Guare and his work have been absent from Broadway for the past 18 years — until now.
The playwright’s latest work, directed by George C. Wolfe and booked through January 9, 2011, features a cast of more than 30 actors playing approximately 45 different characters. The setting changes between New Orleans, Haiti and France in 1801. Award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright plays the titular “free man,” Jacques Cornet, who is the son of a plantation owner and a slave.
Cornet’s story begins as one of a pleasure-seeking and wealthy hedonist, happy to cuckold the men of New Orleans by seducing their wives, all while infuriating his own wife (Sara Gettelfinger). He has inherited his father’s wealth and spends it in debauchery. But when the nation undergoes historic changes, Cornet is also bound for social, political and personal transformation.
Mos Def (credited here as “Mos”) plays Cornet’s slave Murmur along with the role of Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. Among the many other historic figures to step onto the stage are Thomas Jefferson (John McMartin), French statesman Talleyrand (Reg Rogers), explorer Meriwether Lewis (Paul Dano), and Napoleon Bonaparte (Triney Sandoval).
Four weeks of previews began October 23 at the 1,043-seat playhouse, where audiences ranged from a low of 69 percent capacity to a high of 83 percent capacity. Regular tickets are priced from $70 to $115. Gross ticket sales were $301,329 for the week ending November 14, for a total gross of $959,921, according to the Broadway League. The production runs through January 9, 2011.
Evening performances are staged Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The schedule includes some date exceptions and additional showtimes around the holidays.
The Vivian Beaumont Theatre is located at 150 West 65th Street in New York, NY. “A Free Man of Color” runs about two hours and 40 minutes, including an intermission. The play is a limited engagement and is set to close after January 9, 2011. Scheduling and ticketing details are available on the Lincoln Center’s official Web site.
Opening Night: “A Free Man of Color”
|Variety||Marilyn Stasio||“‘A Free Man of Color’…is not the glorious work it might have been.”|
|New York Times||Ben Brantley||“Seriously overweight.”|
|Hollywood Reporter||David Rooney||“[Mos] balances servility with eye-rolling forbearance in a shrewdly underplayed comic turn as Murmur.”|
|TheaterMania||Dan Bacalzo||“John Guare’s latest play is a wearying mash-up of styles…and George C. Wolfe’s production struggles to achieve a coherent tone.”|
|The Wall Street Journal||Terry Teachout||“‘A Free Man of Color’ just might be a masterpiece.”|
|New York Post||Elisabeth Vincentelli||“The last 30 minutes are so brilliant that you can’t dismiss the whole thing.”|