Lincoln, meet Booth

By Steven Tate

Irony reigns in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Topdog/Underdog,” now playing at the Ladies Literary Club.

The play centers on two African-American brothers — Lincoln and Booth — whose names were given to them by their parents as a joke.

After their parents abandon them, the two develop a lifelong sibling rivalry and resentment toward each other. Because they are young, they are forced to depend on each other for survival, coping with women, work, poverty, gambling and racism. Now in their 30s, the two struggle to make a new life, one that will hopefully take them out of poverty.

Salt Lake City Weekly named People Productions a 2006 “Arty” winner. It is Utah’s only black-themed theater. Originally established in San Jose, Calif., in 1971 as a means to bring artists and street kids together, People Productions later moved to Los Angeles and was resurrected again in Salt Lake City in 2000.

This will be the first time People Productions has presented the two-man show “Topdog/Underdog.” Jonah Taylor plays Lincoln and Anthony Lamar Gaskins plays Booth.

The play becomes a tragicomedy of Shakespearian stature, a poetic combination of comic rhythm and street language.

Playwright Parks is also a novelist and has written screenplays, most notably “Girl 6” for Spike Lee and the upcoming “The Great Debators” for Denzel Washington. Her writing challenges notions of the historical construction and context of the black experience. Her work reveals the role that drama plays in shaping and communicating assumptions about race and culture.

Parks places emotional characters in representational or allegorical situations, mixing humor with tragedy.

People Productions presents the Inter-Mountain West premiere of “Topdog/ Underdog” at the Ladies Literary Club (850 E. South Temple) at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday until April 21. Tickets may be purchased at the door and are $12 for the general public and $8 for students.

Chris Peddecord

John B. Taylor and Anthony Lamar Gaskins rehearse Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Topdog/Underdog” at the West Institute on April 2.