“Whipping Man” is a worthwhile ordeal

  • “The Whipping Man” is now playing at the Peterborough Players. Pictured are Taurean Blacque, left, Robb Douglas and Will Howell. Photo by Tyler Richardson

  • Robb Douglas, left, Taurean Blacque, and Will Howell in “The Whipping Man at the Peterborough Players. Photo by Tyler Richardson

Thursday, June 22, 2017 11:48AM

“The Whipping Man,” currently playing at the Peterborough Players, is never easy to sit through. Within the first third of the first act, you will need to look away from the stage. Throughout the performance, your facial expressions will likely cycle through sadness, disgust, and pity many times over. And yet, if you can make it through the play, I can hardly think of a more rewarding way to spend two hours.

The play concerns three men living in the South during the first days after the Civil War. Two of the men are now ex-slaves, and the third is their former owner’s son. The son has just come back, wounded and distressed to find his former house populated by no one other than the two men that previously belonged to him. The play covers three days in total, and takes place in a destroyed Southern manor. Soon old emotions pour out, and new wounds are uncovered.

“The Whipping Man” has a cast of only three, but each man is up to the task that his third of the play demands. Will Howell plays Caleb, the returned Confederate general, and though his Southern accent was occasionally spotty, he gives a committed performance, and is undaunted by the wide range of emotions that he is called to bring forth. Robb Douglas plays John, the younger of the former slaves. It is said early on that John has never been particularly ingratiating, but Douglas certainly is. He has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from the moment he shouts his first line, and when the time comes for Douglas to bring the raw emotionality, he delivers.

Perhaps best of all, and the one that you are most likely to recognize, is Taurean Blacque as Simon, the oldest and wisest of all three men. Blacque is forced over the course of “The Whipping Man” to portray more emotions than most men actually feel in their lifetimes. Whether showing the confidence of a man who has seen most of what life has to offer, or the depths of despair when his world crashes down, Blacque never lets the audience see him sweat, and the performance is never seems unreal.

Ultimately, “The Whipping Man” is not a fun time, and I implore you not to bring a first date. However, if what you’re looking for is a play with real substance, that will make you think both during and well after the bows have been taking, than this show cannot be missed.