Sunday, May 25, 2003

Play uses marriage to examine race

1960s politics show in 'Gingham Dog'

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Nick Rose and Taylore Mahogany Scott portray dueling spouses in a failed marriage in Wilson's thought-provoking The Gingham Dog.
The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat side by side on the table sat.../The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate/appeared to know as sure as fate/there was going to be a terrible spat...

Lanford Wilson used Eugene Field's "The Duel" as a starting point for The Gingham Dog, playing through June 15 as the final entry in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival season. One of his earliest full-length plays, the playwright wears his 1960s politics on his sleeve as he looks at a disintegrating interracial marriage.

Company favorites Nick Rose and Taylore Mahogany Scott play the embattled and embittered soon-to-be-ex-marrieds whose issues include politics, chauvinism and race.

Wilson doesn't write in black and white but in shades of gray.

Associate artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips chose the show and directs under the festival's studio banner. He saw it as a "fantastic way to bookend" season opener Romeo and Juliet, which he directed as a contemporary urban tragedy, with warring Capulets and Montagues separated along the color line.

Gingham Dog, says Phillips, confronts many of the same issues: "Inability of people to communicate, to see past their anger and their preconceived notions."

Far from being dated, Phillips and Rose observe, "the issues from the '60s haven't gone away."

Rose adds: "It's about relationships, not ideologies."

The play invites big performances - the final rhyme of "The Duel," after all, goes: The truth about the cat and pup/Is this: they ate each other up. It's a battle to the death, at least of a love.

If the festival production has a goal beyond entertainment, says Phillips, "It's that people leave and think about the play afterward ... ask yourself what you believe about race and equality and if it's wrong, what are you going to do about it?"

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