by M.L. Byrd
Topdog/Underdog is an American Cain and Abel story and an allegory of the twentieth and twenty-first century United States, which, to many, is bankrupt of promise and pits family member against family member in the search for an elusive and perhaps non-existent American dream.
The story focuses on two brothers whose history is one of parental abandonment, sibling solidarity and rivalry, and betrayal by the system and by themselves. This is a psychological study. The entire play takes place in the younger brother’s boarding room. Both in their thirties, the brothers, ominously named Lincoln and Booth, do little but scheme, dream and reminisce. Both men are career con artists. Both are down and out. With little hope for the future, they turn ever more aggressively against each other.
Designer KB Saine deserves kudos. Her stark set, an ill-fitting door, rickety recliner and squeaking mattress, reeks of discomfort. A temperamental and unstable Booth (Ronnie Brown) controls the drab space. Lincoln (Delvin Young), apparently once dominant, has trouble keeping up with his younger brother.
As the theater’s director, Saine deserves additional praise for her scheduling. Sycamore Rouge’s last play, Picasso at the Lapine Agile, capitalized on the successful Picasso exhibit at the Richmond Museum of Fine Art. This play opens during the Rouge’s celebration of Black History Month–a tribute to playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African-American female to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 through March 11th.