I reviewed Portland Center Stage’s new production, The Whipping Man, for Portland Monthly magazine this week.
I was almost as interested in the historical basis for this play as the play itself. Whipping Man has to do with a Jewish family that lives in the South during the Civil War era and owns slaves—two things I, a member of the tribe, had no idea Jews did. I write about this secret, dramatically rich history in the sidebar to the review.
Fascinating as its premise is, the play more than carries its own weight. As part of the Passover seder I go to each year, attendees are supposed to bring something—a quotation, a song, a poem—about the theme of the holiday, freedom. The tradition has revealed the concept to be much more complex than you’d think; Whipping Man, set in the days leading up to Passover, 1865, is a thoughtful (not to mention well-staged) exploration of that complexity.