Theatre and Dance Department Produces Two-man Play, “Topdog/Underdog”

Celebrating Black History Month, the Department of Theatre and Dance at California State University, Dominguez Hills presents a production of “Topdog/Underdog,” a powerful play written by African American playwright and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by assistant professor of theatre arts Sharrell Luckett. Performances will be held in the intimate 70-seat Edison Theatre located in the University Theatre Complex on Feb. 27, 28, March 1, 7, and 8 at 8 p.m. and March 2 and 9 at 2 p.m.

WHAT:      “Topdog/Underdog”

WHEN:      Feb. 27, 28, March 1, 7, 8 at 8 p.m., and March 2, 9 at 2 p.m.

WHERE:    Edison Theatre, CSU Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson, CA 90747

TICKETS:   General admission – $15; Students and senior citizens – $10. Purchase tickets online at: www.csudh.edu/theatre/tickets.htm or call (310) 243-3589

In the play, Parks provides an intense view into the lives and relationship of two brothers, as they attempt to survive a difficult past and deceive their way into dominance over the other.

Their father named the brothers Lincoln and Booth…as a prank. Now grown men, their names and their histories haunt them. Trapped by their poverty, family history of abandonment, and ominously prophetic names, these two black men find themselves locked in a dangerous game of deception, fighting over which one’s the Player and which one’s the Played in this darkly passionate story about family grievances, racism, deep wounds and healing.

Artwork by Karen Mossiah, instructional support technician.

Artwork by Karen Mossiah, instructional support technician.

Ben Brantley, in the New York Times, wrote, “Like ‘Invisible Man,’ Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel of 1952, ‘Topdog/Underdog’ considers nothing less than the existential traps of being African American and male in the United States, the masks that wear the men as well as vice versa.”

In her directorial debut at CSU Dominguez Hills, Luckett, who holds a Ph.D. in theatre with an emphasis in performance and African American theatre from the University of Missouri, has cast Sean Cook Jr., a junior majoring in business administration with a minor in Africana studies and an active member of the CSU Dominguez Hills Poetry Slam Team, as Booth, and alumnus Samuel Simmons (Class of ’07, B.A., theatre arts), a professional educator and actor, most recently performing in “Do Lord Remember Me” at the Attic Theatre and Film Center in Los Angeles, as Lincoln.

The action of the play centers around a game of three-card monte—a scam game—in which “there is no winning,” said Luckett, adding that using the game as a metaphor, Parks, who is known for her abstract work and was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Topdog/Underdog,” poses some difficult questions regarding “systemic and overt oppression” for black males in America.

Although the play deals with deep issues, Luckett said the play is infused with satire and she is including other upbeat elements.

“This play is very much Suzan-Lori Parks. It’s posing as realism. To me it’s really magical,” Luckett said. “Because of that, I do have music to bring in that magical part.”

The production will be underscored with live piano accompaniment performed by senior music major Osbaldo Maravilla, who composed the original music for the play.

Directly following the March 2 matinee performance, there will be a “Talk Black Session,” co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies.

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and senior citizens. Group rates are also available. For more ticket information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.csudh.edu/theatre/tickets. For other payment options, please call the box office at (310) 243-3589.

For more information about “Topdog/Underdog” or the CSU Dominguez Hills Theatre and Dance program, contact the theatre office at (310) 243-3588 or visit www.csudh.edu/theatre.

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