Review: THURGOOD At Cleveland Play House

Dramatic, humorous and wonderfully performed, CPH's THURGOOD, is a marvelous theatrical experience.

By: Sep. 18, 2023
Review: THURGOOD At Cleveland Play House

Thurgood Marshall, the subject of THURGOOD, now on stage at Cleveland Play House’s Allen Theatre, was the grandson of slaves.  He was born in segregated Baltimore and attended all-Black schools. 


After high school he enrolled at Lincoln University, the oldest college for African Americans in the United States. Marshall desired to go to law school but was not allowed into the all-white University of Maryland. Instead, he attended Howard University Law School.


When asked about why he wanted to go to law school, he said that his father, who was an important influence in his life, "never told me to become a lawyer, but he turned me into one ... He taught me how to argue, challenged my logic on every point, by making me prove every statement I made, even if we were discussing the weather."


And what a lawyer he was.  Often referred to as “Mr. Civil Rights,” he devoted his life to championing justice and equality for all people.


Prior to his judicial service, he was an attorney who fought for civil rights, leading the NAACP’S Legal and Education Fund.   He won 29 of the 32 civil rights cases he argued before the Supreme Court, culminating in the Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which rejected the separate but equal doctrine and held segregation in public education to be unconstitutional.  


Though many think only of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the central lynch point of the civil rights movement, the role of Marshall cannot be overlooked.  King fought outside the system to make his strides, Marshall worked within the system to change laws and legally make change. 


Marshall’s motivation was often credited to his education at Howard, where he was taught to be a "social engineer," willing to use the law to fight for civil rights.


He was appointed by Lyndon Johnson to be the Supreme Court's first African-American justice.  Marshall served as an associate justice from 1967 until 1991.  A staunch liberal, he frequently dissented as the Court became an increasingly conservative court.


THURGOOD, his biographical play, as written by George Stevens, Jr. spans his remarkable 58-year career while highlighting his warmth and sharp wit. 


THE CPH production stars film, TV, and regional theatre veteran Lester Purry.  He has performed this script at Geva Theatre center, Portland Playhouse and Penumbra Theatre.


Purry doesn’t act the role, he emerges himself so into the character, that there is no doubt we are sharing the two-hour, two-act play with Marshal, himself.  His asides to the audience are Marshall’s asides.  His sorrows become our real sorrows.  His joys, our joys.  What a pleasure to see this marvelous actor on stage.


Purry’s lines were often interrupted by applause.  This was not only a tribute to the actor’s performance, but to the knowledge and power of Marshal’s ideas and stances.


Award winning Clevelander Greg White understudies Purry and may perform at some stagings.


The action takes place on one-set, but is visually enhanced by Rasean Davonte Johnson’s compelling projections.


Capsule judgement:  THURGOOD is not only is a fine historical epic, but is wonderful entertainment.  Dramatic, humorous, well performed and clever….it makes for a marvelous must-see theatrical experience.


THURGOOD runs through October 1, 2023. For tickets call Cleveland Play House @ 216-400-7000 or go to Click Here


Next up at CPH---10/21-11/12—Mary Shelley’S FRANKENSTEIN—A gritty yet highly theatrical tale that brings what’s buried back to life.

BroadwayWorld Awards Voting


CIM Reveals 2024 Spring Concert Season Photo
CIM Reveals 2024 Spring Concert Season

CIM has revealed a new slate of events for its 2024 calendar. On Thursday, the last day of classes, CIM released its concert calendar for spring 2024, an alluring list packed with diverse and repertoire performed by a lineup of student, faculty, and guests.

Michael Barakiva Named Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House Photo
Michael Barakiva Named Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House

Michael Barakiva has been named the new Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House! Learn more about him here!

Review: HAIRSPRAY at Connor Palace Photo
Review: HAIRSPRAY at Connor Palace

What did our critic think of HAIRSPRAY at Connor Palace? The farcical, yet message-loaded HAIRSPRAY, is the type of musical that in a bad production falls flat, but in a good production the audience gets all-kinds of involved.

MRS. DOUBTFIRE is Coming To Playhouse Square In January Photo
MRS. DOUBTFIRE is Coming To Playhouse Square In January

Mrs. Doubtfire is coming to Playhouse Square in January! Get ready for a hilarious and heartwarming musical adaptation of the beloved film. Don't miss out on this unforgettable show.

From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in mo... Roy Berko">(read more about this author)


A Doll's House, Part 2 in Cleveland A Doll's House, Part 2
Beck Center For the Arts (5/31-6/30)
Jitney in Cleveland Jitney
Beck Center For the Arts (4/05-5/05)
Ride the Cyclone in Cleveland Ride the Cyclone
Beck Center For the Arts (2/09-2/25)
Ax, Kavakos, Ma Trio in Recital: Beethoven for Three in Cleveland Ax, Kavakos, Ma Trio in Recital: Beethoven for Three
Severance Music Center (2/01-2/01)
Dobama Theatre (4/26-5/19)
Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet in Cleveland Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet
Severance Music Center (12/07-12/09)
Modern Classicist: Welser-Möst Conducts Prokofiev 5 and 2 in Cleveland Modern Classicist: Welser-Möst Conducts Prokofiev 5 and 2
Severance Music Center (1/17-1/18)
Out of This World in Cleveland Out of This World
Severance Music Center (4/05-4/05)
Dobama Theatre (3/08-3/30)
Mozart's Gran Partita in Cleveland Mozart's Gran Partita
Severance Music Center (5/23-5/25)

Recommended For You