Lewis (Victor Mack) is having a terrible night. A sleepless night. As Tanya Barfield’s signature play, Blue Door, opens on the Profile Theatre stage, Lewis pops up from bed and begins pacing around the room. His white wife (Lewis is black) has left him after 25 years of marriage and has filed for divorce. He says it’s because he won’t go to the Million Man March. She says it’s because “you won’t look at yourself”.
And then, as if things aren’t bad enough, Lewis is visited by three ghosts! And no, my friends, A Christmas Carol this is not (although if you hang with the play long enough you will notice some similarities). Rather, they include his great-grandfather Simon (a former slave), his younger brother Rex, and his grandfather Jesse (all played by Seth Rue).
By all standards we hold dear, Lewis has managed to beat the system. He’s the first person in his family to go to college–ever. He lives the good life as a math professor in New York City. He wears silver satin PJs. And for 25 years he’s managed to avoid going camping with his wife. “I can fade into the city,” he remarks to one of the ghosts. “But I can’t just fade into the country.” Since he won’t camp, his chosen life has enabled him to almost forget about his race.
But not quite.
That’s why there are the ghosts.
As with a play about genocide that I reviewed recently, there is no polite way to have an honest play about racism, and this one is honest. It will grab you and slam your head against that wall you’ve built around yourself. The dialog is relentless, the acting and directing (thank you Bobby Bermea) superb. And the simple set speaks volumes–a bed with a White Only sign stuffed under it, mathematical figures on the floor and riser, leg irons hanging beneath the riser. It is a brilliant production, and a powerful one.
Profile Theatre’s mission is to produce a season of plays devoted to a single playwright. This season is devoted to Portland native Tanya Barfield. Among other honors, Blue Door was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
The play runs through April 24. And if you’re wondering about that Blue Door, you will just have to attend a performance to find out.