Theatre Review: The Whipping Man at George Street Playhouse

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—One of the most iconic lines in the film Gone with the Wind refers to Miss Ellen’s rosaries, reminding the audience that American slave owners were not all Protestant.

In George Street Playhouse's eye-opening presentation of "The Whipping Man," we are introduced to Simon, a recently emancipated slave who follows the same religion of his former masters, Judaism.

On the eve of Passover, Good Friday and assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, this drama finds itself in the ruins of a the Jewish family’s mansion in war-ravaged Richmond, Virginia.

As the play begins, we meet Caleb, a seriously wounded Jewish confederate officer played by Adam Gerber. Caleb has made it home, where Simon, played by Ron Canada, a former house servant who helped raise Caleb.

Simon, something of a father figure to Caleb, takes charge of the young officer’s immediate situation, knowing if he doesn’t act, Caleb will die.

Enter the enigmatic John, played by Luke Forbes.  Though their relationship is contentious, John and Caleb have a bond that runs deeper than slave and owner.

With Caleb’s situation worsening, Simon has no choice but to amputate Caleb's wounded leg.  With the assistance of John, in one of the most harrowing scenes this reviewer has ever seen on a stage, Caleb’s leg is removed.

A Passover Seder conducted by Simon takes on a special meaning, in light of the emancipation of American slaves, the end of the Civil War, and the assasination of Lincoln.

But the true relationships between these three men are revealed through past cruelty, deception, lies, and a caste system none of them can separate from.

Under the direction of Seret Scott, Canada, Forbes and Gerber deliver a powerful well-acted and well-crafted drama that takes the audience deep into an area of the Confederacy many didn’t know existed.

Adding to this stage work was the incredible set designed by Jason Simms.

This play is highly recommended and runs until February 15.  For more information or tickets, visit georgestreetplayhouse.org or call the ticket office at 732-246-7117.