Editor/Publisher, Bina Sharif

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


  a theatrical biography by
At Castillo Theater.

Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Zora Neal Hurston, a prolific
novelist, playwright, outspoken and bold woman and personality in 1920s and 30s.
The play was produced by American Place theater in 1998 under the direction of
Wynn Handman who is the consulting director of the current production.
Elizabeth Van  Dyke  and Joseph Lewis Edwards recreates their original roles they played in 1998.

"Zora Neal Hurston" Is one of the most brilliant portrait of a historical literary figure
presented here by Superb Elizabeth Van Dyke.  In the very opening scene she is almost
at the end of her career and a heart broken woman who had been misunderstood and had many challanges and oppositions.  Its no joke to make a career as an outspoken black woman in 1920s and 30s.  The character in the begining of the play is going back to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida
and is waiting at a bus stop.

Within minutes her vigor and fighting spirit and her enormous ability to tell a story revives itself
and she narrates her past in vived details. She has humor and enegy even in some painful tellings of the past events.
 All the credit goes to a powerhouse of an actress,  Elizabeth Van Dyke.  She has a great stage presence and a melodious voice with the tinge of sadness, singsong, depth of feelings and  ability to recall a memory no matter how painful and then to turn that pain into instant joy.
 The actress goes through a long journey in just an hour and a half which keeps us,  the audience in total rapture.
I,  for sure loved her.  Its a very difficult endeavor to hold the audience's attention while one is portrying a historical figure whom many of the audience members might have known.
Though I never met Zora Neal Hurston but for me Elizabeth Van Dyke was her in a very human and majestic way because she made me forget that she was just an actress.

Joseph Lewis Edwards who plays, Herbert, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke and Richard Wright,
Poets and novelists and her contemporaries is another gem of an actor.  He was throughly believable
in all the roles and was charming as hell and also a wonderful singer.  I wanted more and more of his presence on stage.
Both actors had through understanding of the real people they were portrying.  Not an easy task to say the least but that's what a great actor does and these actors were just perfect in their roles.

The play is powerfully directed by Woodie King, Jr.

Laurence Holder is one of the most Important and brilliant writers of our times.  I have always enjoyed his work.  Earlier this year I saw, Sugar Ray, (Sugar Ray Robinson) in a site specific production at the restaurant where the boxer had a bar in Harlem.  It was just an amazing experience
which stayed with me till now.  I appreciate these kinds of historical plays which are extremely
educational experiences into the past of African American literature, their song, their struggle and
their achivements under all odds for a foreigner like me. I was very touched with this bold and sensitive production.

Zora Neal Hurston was known as the, "Queen of Harlem Renaissance"
And for all the right reasons.  She wanted to collect and preserve the language,
folklore, dance and song of the deep south which she did preserved in her Anthropology
research under the tutelage of Franz Boas at Barnard College.  A brilliant sory teller and
in courageous opposition of Jim Crow laws and black integration, she annoyed many black
intellectuals. In her later years she tumbled into obscurity because of false charges of child
molestation.  Her famous autobiography, Their Eyes Were Watching God, " and, 'Mules and Men"
a story collection of folklore are great achievements.

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