Marin Theatre Company continues its 2012/13 Season with Suzan-Lori Parks's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog, which runs from September 27 to October 21. Acclaimed regional theater director Timothy Douglas directs this comic drama in its first locally produced professional staging. MTC's production coincidentally marks the tenth anniversary of the first and only Pulitzer Prize for Drama win by an African-American woman. Local spoken word artist Biko Eisen-Martin returns to the region for his first Bay Area production since 2009 and also his first as a member of Actors' Equity Association. Opening night is on Tuesday, October 2.
"I am delighted that MTC is a part of the tenth anniversary celebration of this remarkable, historic and profound American play," artistic director Jasson Minadakis said. "Rarely has the theater seen the kind of brilliance that Suzan-Lori achieved with the story of Lincoln and Booth: ill-fated brothers condemned by their very names to play out the tragedy of America's troubled, brutal legacy of race. I am particularly excited by the potential conversations that Topdog and our spring production of Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man will inspire in our lobby and in our community."
Topdog/Underdog delves into the rivalry of two brothers-Lincoln, the elder, a former hustler trying to make a go at honest work, and Booth, the younger, a wannabe hood looking to learn the tricks of his brother's illegitimate trade. Trapped by their poverty, family history and ominously prophetic given names, these two black men soon realize they are locked in a dangerous game of deception, sparring over just which one's the Player and which one's the Played.
Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks returns to the Bay Area for its first locally produced professional staging. The play previously received a limited commercial run in San Francisco in 2003 through Best of Broadway (now SHN) at the Curran Theatre. Mounted by Seattle Rep, the short West Coast tour featured the original 2002 Broadway set, costumes, director (George C. Wolfe) and producer (Carole Shorenstein Hays), but actors Harold Perrineau and Larry Gilliard Jr. replaced the Broadway cast (Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def). Originally starring Wright and Don Cheadle, Topdog/Underdog premiered off-Broadway on July 10, 2001, at The Public Theatre.
MTC previously produced staged readings of Suzan-Lori Parks's 365 Days/365 Plays and In the Blood in 2007 as part of its New Works Series. Parks's most recent work, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (a controversial adaptation of the classic opera developed by American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts), won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival and is currently running on Broadway through September 23. To mark the tenth anniversary of her Pulitzer Prize win (the first and only African American woman to do so), Parks will direct Topdog/Underdog for the first time in September at Two River Theater Company in New Jersey. Her work was last seen in the Bay Area at the Cutting Ball Theater in 2008, when Betting on the Dust Commander was featured in "Avant GardARAMA!: an evening of short experimental plays."
Director Timothy Douglas makes his MTC debut with Topdog/Underdog. He has directed nationally and internationally, including local productions at Berkeley Rep, Magic Theatre and A.C.T. Conservatory. Most notably, he directed the world premiere of August Wilson's Radio Golf at Yale Rep, the acclaimed Caribbean-inspired Much Ado About Nothing at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. and the premiere of a new translation/adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Rosmersholm off-Broadway.