DUTCH MASTERS (AMH Productions): 2016 Fringe review 60

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It’s a weekend night, upstairs at a Center City bar; on one side of the landing a barroom is closed off for a loud private event. On the other, behind an unsubstantial curtain, seven chairs between rows of en face seating comprise a theater set. This is AMH’s pleasantly low key production of DUTCH MASTERS, a contemporary play set in 1992 New York City, as Rudy Giuliani and his broken windows racial profiling are about to defeat the David Dinkins, the first black mayor. A young white man, Steve (Robert Dondiego), reads a book on the subway; a young black man, Erik (James Whitfield: powerful, convincing) tries to befriend him.

The two share a subway car, an appreciation for marijuana rolled in dutch masters, and much else to be revealed in Greg Keller’s slyly suspenseful script, but they inhabit different worlds. Steve’s favorite Star Wars figure is Lando Calrissian, he knows the words to “Can I Kick It”—he can appropriate black culture without ever really understanding black experience (“all those years of looking in the mirror, perfecting your strut, you ain’t down, you ain’t never gonna be down”). Under Alyse Hogan’s well-paced direction, Whitfield and Dondiego find the humor and poignancy in Keller’s quietly affecting consideration of race, class, and human connection.

[Strangelove's 216 S. 11th Street] September 9-18, 2016; fringearts.com/dutch-masters.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.