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"A Man for All Times: W. E. B. DuBois" at 59E59 Theater C

“A Man for All Times: W. E. B. DuBois”
Written and Directed by Alexa Kelly
Featuring Brian Richardson
At 59E59 Theater C
Reviewed by David Roberts, Chief Critic
Theatre Reviews Limited

In 1951, just eight days before his eighty-third birthday, W. E. B. DuBois is charged with being a foreign agent. Disheartened and discouraged at America’s unwillingness to seek paths of peace instead of war, DuBois thunders, “Wake up America! Your liberties are being stolen before your very eyes. Wake up Americans, and dare to think and say and do; dare to cry no more war!” Brian Richardson’s electrifying portrayal of William Edward Berghardt DuBois, here and throughout his performance, is a privilege to experience. Richardson is able to tell DuBois’ story with conviction and style. He understands who DuBois was, how he spoke, how he moved, how he used every rhetorical device to persuade his listeners of the importance of social justice.

DuBois struggled with the “line of color” throughout his life in the United States. This “Veil” never lifted for him and he became an expatriate spending his last years in Accra, Ghana where he died on August 27, 1963. After his death his wife Shirley read the epilogue DuBois wrote on June 26, 1957. Embodying DuBois with perfection, Richardson lists those things for which DuBois lived his passion-filled life:

“My Birthday is a national holiday on Mainland China, my homeland knows me not. At the ripe age of 98, I can honestly say that I have dedicated my life to the following goals: Abolition of poverty, No exploitation of labor, free medical care for all, free education for all, job training, and jobs for all, and no dogmatic religion.”

As Bryan Richardson shares this touching epilogue, he is stooped, holding a cane, a completely different DuBois than he was at 16, 29, or 39. This brilliant actor knows, as he delivers these lines, what is going through the minds of every member of the audience: America has yet to wake up, yet to dare to think or say or do, yet to dare to cry no more war. There are far too many Americans living below the poverty line. Governors across the United States are doing all they can to bust unions and reverse all advances made by labor. There is not only no free medical care for all in America; there is no medical care for all at an affordable rate. We still have no idea how to properly educate our children in the United States; our drop-out rates from high schools are alarming and far too many good teachers are retiring to avoid the bureaucratic abuse from local and federal governments. Our unemployment rates skyrocket and we seem on the brink of financial disaster. Finally, we consistently allow dogmatic religion to interfere with the legislative process. The Roman Catholic Church is doing all it can, spend all it can, lobby all it can to prevent Equal Marriage from becoming law.

What would DuBois say if he were alive today? The same thing he said at the close of his epilogue: “These [goals] are not crimes. Without them to nation can be free. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” This nation is not really free and we seem to prefer our chains to our true freedom. Hopefully, the legacy of DuBois can reawaken us to the passion we need to overcome.

Alexa Kelly’s well-written script is compelling. But it is Brian Richardson’s understanding of rhetoric that moves the script to dazzling success.

Written and directed by Alexa Kelly.Featuring Brian Richardson.

The final performances of “A Man for All Times: W. E. B. DuBois” are on Tuesday July 24 at 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday July 25 at 7:00 p.m. at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets to each EAST TO EDINBURGH show range from $12 - $20 ($8.50 -$14 for 59E59 Members). Tickets can be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, July 23, 2012