Sept. 22 2010 12:00 AM

’Door’ to discovery Williamston drama examines racial identity


In Williamston Theatre’s upcoming production, “Blue Door,” Lewis, an African-American professor of math ematics sees his complacent, tenured life derailed.

His wife tells him she’s leaving him because he won’t go to the Million Man March. His brother accuses him of “turning your back on everything that makes you black.”

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, who was challenged to re-evaluate his life by ghosts from the past, Lewis undergoes a series of encounters with ghosts of the black experience.

“It’s a song we’ve been singing for a while,” director Suzi Regan said. “How we overcome our past and come to terms with it and to live in the present.”

Four generations of ancestors, from slavery to the Black Power Movement, materialize to confront the professor with his African-American identity and history.

It’s a bruising climb up the family tree.

Among the ghosts who appear are a greatgrandfather born to slavery who was sexually abused by the man who taught him to read; a grandfather who was murdered by a lynch mob; and a father who became a violent alcoholic.

Their stories bring Lewis’ tidy formula for living into serious question.

“When we hear the voices of our ancestors, it gives us perspective on our own life and lot of wisdom,” Regan said.

The play’s title refers to Lewis’ greatgreat-grandmother’s belief that painting a door blue could keep evil away.

By keeping the door to his past “painted blue,” is Lewis acting rationally or deluding himself?

“Blue Door” has been performed in other locations, with varying techniques, but that doesn’t daunt Regan. “I haven’t seen the other productions,” she said.

“The great thing about theatre is that the individuals come together with a roadmap that the playwright has paved for us.”

After that, she said, “imagination goes wild and we make our own way.”

The play puts a heavy burden on its two stars, Rico Bruce Wade and Julian Grant.

As the professor, Wade has reams of dialogue and monologue to master, while Grant has to handle multiple roles, including all the phantoms.

‘Blue Door’

Theatre 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston Sept. 23-Oct. 17 8 p.m.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; 3 p.m. matinees Sat.,
Oct. 2 and Thurs., Oct. 16 Pay-What-You-Can Thursday, Sept. 23 Preview
performances $15 (through Sept. 30); beginning Oct.1 $10-24 (517)