A new work by Leslie Lee, directed by Cyndy A. Marion. The Book of Lambert, a new play by Obie-winner and Tony-nominated playwright Leslie Lee, depicts the lives of several lost souls living in the subterranean depths of an abandoned NYC subway station. Lambert, their leader, a disillusioned young African-American ex-English teacher is writing a prophetic book on life. In an effort to guide and re-focus this lost flock, Lambert unleashes his own identity issues while coming face to face with the demons of his past.
Featuring: Clinton Faulkner, Joresa Blount, Sadrina Johnson*, Heather Massie*, Gloria Sauve*, Arthur French*, Howard L. Wieder, and Omrae D. Smith
* Denotes member of Actors' Equity Association/Equity Approved Showcase
Sets: Andis Gjoni
Lighting: Russel Phillip Drapkin
Costumes: David B. Thompson
Incidental Music: Joe Gianono
Stage Manager: Elliot Lanes*
ASM: Jen Wiener
Ass. Director/Production Asst: Leigh Hile
Dramaturgy: Maxine Kern
Press Rep: DARR Publicity
by Jason Fitzgerald
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The Book of Lambert mines deep, starting in the recesses of the New York City subway and ending in the depths of its characters' psyches. The play, written nearly 30 years ago, is reminiscent by turns of Eugene O'Neill, Ralph Ellison, and other American masters, culminating in that most American of all themes: Our penchant for big dreams can too easily rot into self-deception, trapping us from self-knowledge and the freedom of an authentic existence.
In Lambert, playwright Leslie Lee asks us to spend two and a half hours with six characters in a tunnel above the A train; all have an obstacle keeping them in their literal and psychic dungeons. Zinth, for example, is an elderly woman who keeps "getting married" to her blind and impotent lover Otto, hoping they'll finally consummate their "honeymoon." Clancy is an Irish cop who's grown delusional. Lambert, the play's stallion hero, is a spirited but lost young black writer forever rehashing a failed love affair.
The play's imagery is delicate and sophisticated, as in the oranges -- tragic because so banal -- that Zinth bruises to get a rise out of Otto. Lee emerges as one of America's great poets of race relations in the interracial love affair between Lambert and his "Juliet," Virginia, which unfolds less as a romantic melodrama than as a condemnation of white liberal hypocrisy. She loves for the same reason she leaves him: his "black magic."
But it all ends too neatly, as Clancy and Lambert recover the sources of their "pain" in a "game" of violent psychoanalysis and then walk away miraculously healed. The men's triumphant exit from the tunnel undercuts Lee's observations about the inscrutable puzzles of human nature (not to mention the short shrift he gives to his female characters).
Still, La MaMa E.T.C. has given The Book of Lambert a fine -- and overdue -- world premiere. Clinton Faulkner as Lambert is a dead ringer for a young Denzel Washington and a revelation as a leading man. Andis Gjoni's set is deep and decrepit enough to be a picture of the play's journey into the dark, and the haunting lights from a facsimile subway tunnel are a reminder of the darkness that always accompanies the path to light.