Review: ‘Abolition’ at Celebration Arts
Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was a most appropriate time for Celebration Arts to debut its outstanding production of Rick Foster’s Abolition. Foster’s hero—one of a pair in this two-man play—is Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who devoted his life to securing the freedom of all who were held in bondage, and doing it nonviolently. Along with the much-credited Mohandas Gandhi, Douglass surely inspired King’s approach to protest.
The other icon in this struggle for freedom is a white, Bible-quoting Puritan named John Henry. He saw slavery as a government war of oppression and, in the manner of Malcolm X decades later, advocated “whatever means necessary” to end that evil. He was willing to give his life (and did) to provoke the war that would end slavery.
Foster has written more than a dozen plays dealing with social conflict (including Friendly Fire about the genocide of Native Americans) and he demonstrates an unusual ability to understand and relate true human emotion and intention. Foster directs this excellent production, which stars newcomer Levi Lowe as Douglass and Equity actor Thomas F. Maguire as Brown.