A FREE MAN OF COLOR Review Roundup


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The Lincoln Center Theater production of John Guare's new play, A FREE MAN OF COLOR, directed by George C. Wolfe, opened tonight (Thursday, November 18) at 6:45pm at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The cast features Yao Ababio,Peter BartlettNicole BeharieArnie Burton, Rosal Colón,Veanne CoxPaul DanoSara GettelfingerDerric Harris,Justina MachadoJoseph MarcellJohn McMartinNick Mennell, Mos, Teyonnah ParrisPostell PringleEsau PritchettBrian ReddyReg RogersTriney SandovalRobert StantonWendy Rich StetsonJerome StiglerSenfaub StoneyDavid Emerson Toney and Jeffrey Wright

A FREE MAN OF COLOR is a free
wheeling epic set in 1801 New Orleans. Jacques Cornet, the title character (played by Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor 
Jeffrey Wright), is a new world Don Juan and the wealthiest inhabitant of this sexually charged and racially progressive city. Jacques thinks all is well in his paradise until history intervenes, setting off a chain of events which no one, much less this free man of color, realizes is about to splinter the world.

Ben BrantleyNY Times: Eclecticism has always been essential to Mr. Guare's writing, which at its best juggles mismatched elements of culture, high and low, with daring and dizzying skill. This is the man who memorably combined tabloid prurience (and famous-name dropping) with classic poetic lyricism... But here, in his first new play on Broadway in 18 years, he seems less to be juggling than tossing bright balls of allusion and information onto the stage and praying that they'll land in a coherent pattern. 

David RooneyThe Hollywood Reporter: But the visual embellishments only add another layer of self-indulgence to a play already far too intoxicated with its own cleverness in juggling heady historical rumination with low comedy. The sober reflections on America's national character come too late and too abruptly to resonate fully.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Somewhere very far away - as far, say, as the final 15 minutes - "A Free Man of Color" becomes an important play. Finally, after 2 ½ hours of brain-blurring historical asides, strenuously costumed artifice and luxuriously overpopulated incoherence, the point and resonance of this crazy-ambitious collaboration between playwright John Guare and directorGeorge C. Wolfe fall deeply into place.

Michael Sommers, NJ Newsroom: Wright furiously tears around as the flamboyant Jacques. Subtly depicting the fop's long-suffering servant Murmur, Mos also blazes for a bit as the fiery Toussaint.John McMartin wryly portrays a pragmatic Jefferson. Reg Rogers is very funny whether as Jacques' vengeful half-brother or the oily French diplomat Talleyrand. Veanne Cox and Peter Bartlettcomically contrast as aristocratic refugees upset by New Orleans' raffish society while Nicole Beharie is winsome as a spunky country girl who soon comes to love it. Paul DanoNick Mennelland Arnie Burton brightly materialize as various personages.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: If neatness is what you expect from John Guare's "A Free Man of Color," you'll be doomed to disappointment. Mr. Guare's ambitious new play, which tells the fantastic tale of Jacques Cornet (Jeffrey Wright), a 19th-century millionaire playboy from New Orleans who happens to be black, has a cast of 33 and runs for 2½ crowded hours. Yes, it sprawls, but for all its hectic messiness, "A Free Man of Color" is one of the three or four most stirring new plays I've seen since I started writing this column seven years ago.

Mark KennedyAssociated Press: The playwright's ambition cannot be denied: It is a geographically sprawling, frantic affair set primarily in New Orleans about the chaotic years at the turn of the 19th century as the Great Powers squabbled and swapped land at a whim. Fictional characters are mixed with historical giants.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: You can't say John Guare's new play "A Free Man of Color" isn't ambitious in scope or awash in extravagant eye candy. Or that the huge cast of 33 isn't fully committed. But unfortunately that doesn't add up to a satisfying evening.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: A spectacular folly has just crash-landed at Lincoln Cen ter Theater. Eight years in the making, John Guare's latest play, "A Free Man of Color," is an ambitious, awkward, fascinating, lumbering endeavor about the mapping of America's modern physical, social and racial borders. Most of the show, directed by George C. Wolfe, is a maddening slog. But the last 30 minutes are so brilliant that you can't dismiss the whole thing.

Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: I suspect that "A Free Man of Color" was a lot more fun to write than it is to watch.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: While the thematic expansiveness of John Guare's first new Broadway play in 18 years is audacious, George C. Wolfe's extravagant staging and Jeffrey Wright's mannered lead performance make an overstuffed work even heavier.

Marnie Hanel, Vanity Fair: Despite the production's clever direction, gorgeous costumes, inventive sets, and skilled cast, it's a toughy. With an original run time of five and a half hours (now coming in at three), one can imagine director George C. Wolfe's trimming Guare's script as a tailor would Cornet's jacket. But there's only so much one can do when given too much fabric.

Posted on November 19, 2010 - by


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About the Author:Robert Diamond founded BroadwayWorld.com in 2003, which has now become the largest theatre web site in the world. He also serves as the site's Editor-in-Chief, covering Broadway and beyond, with specific local coverage for 100 cities in the United States, 30 countries worldwide and 15 other related areas of entertainment - including dance, opera, fashion, concerts, comedy, films, television and more. The 2001 Syracuse University graduate (School of Information Studies) is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media, an award-winning leading design company for entertainment and technology web sites. In his previous life, he held an executive position for the world's leading publisher of technology magazines, web sites and conferences and, as a result, was named among the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by FOLIO Magazine. Diamond got his start in the entertainment field, accidentally, when he created the 'official web site' (while in college) for Michael Crawford, the popular actor and original Tony and Olivier Award-winning star of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. (He still blames Crawford - and credits him - for anything that goes particularly right or wrong during an average day.) As a respected member of the Broadway and theatre community, Diamond also served as Lead Producer for a series of sold-out shows using the BroadwayWorld.com 'brand' for a set of 'Standing Ovations' concerts, which also branched out into titles that included Holiday Shows and even more specific concerts like 'From Stage to Screen and Back Again' in tandem with publishers and movie studios. All proceeds were in turn donated to Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, the industry's leader in aid for performers in need. Robert lives in Manhattan with his wife and two dogs, growing the business and getting little sleep. In addition, you can usually find him in a theatre many nights a week. Robert's very popular blog, 'The Broadway Pulse' appears daily on BroadwayWorld.com and he also writes weekly about theatre for the USA Network's Character Approved blog. In December of last year, Diamond was one of 5 Syracuse University Alumni, all having achieved success in the world of start-ups, business growth and venture capital, participating on a panel addressing young alumni who are currently pursuing their dreams of running their own business and experiencing the day to day challenges of a startup. It is part of the university's new Student Accelerator Program, for which Rob was recommended by Syracuse University's i-School.


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