Brothers in conflict in “Topdog/Underdog”
As in the game of three-card monte that runs through the script, not everything is as it seems in “Topdog/Underdog,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Suzan-Lori Parks now playing at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati.
Brothers Lincoln and Booth (whose father apparently had a twisted sense of humor) are living together in a small apartment, presumably in New York City.
In his younger days, Lincoln was one of the top three-card monte hustlers in the city, running a team of players that would bring in a thousand dollars a day. But when one of his team meets a violent end, he gives up the game and takes a regular job — if you can call it that: He plays Abraham Lincoln in an arcade where people pay to sneak up behind him and shoot him with a cap gun. In a reversal of the old minstrel shows, we see a black man in white face. Booth aspires to the career that Lincoln gave up, and throughout the play he’s practicing his three-card monte patter, and even announces to his brother that he no longer wants to be called Booth, but Three-Card.
The play is about their battle for survival and control. Having been abandoned by their parents, first their mother and a few years later their father, family ties don’t seem to carry a lot of weight between them, just enough to keep them living together, although Booth (whose apartment it started out to be) is always on the verge of throwing his brother out on Thursdays, but by Friday (payday) all is well between them.
Lincoln has just ended a unfaithful marriage in which Booth was the other man and Booth is struggling hard to rekindle his relationship with Grace, but with all the posturing and bragging, it’s hard to say just how well that’s going for him — safe to say, however, it’s not going very well at all.
Both Todd Patterson (Booth) and Derek Snow (Lincoln) give first-rate performances under the direction of Richard Hess, the head of CCM’s drama department.
- WHAT: 2X2: “Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks and “Red Light Winter” by Adam Rapp
- WHERE: Know Theatre of Cincinnati,
- WHEN: In repertory Jan. 31-March 2
- COST: $18-$22
- MORE INFO: (513) 300-5669; www.knowtheatre.com