I recently saw, within days of the late Thurgood Marshall’s 100th birthday, Laurence Fishburne become the civil rights legend in a 90-minute inspired “lecture” which understandably has won the actor both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Outstanding Solo Performance in Thurgood and garnered him a Tony nomination.
I’m always impressed with actors who can pull off a one-man show, and does he ever. When we, as latecomers were escorted to our seats by an usher, he addressed us in character, beckoning us welcome from the lectern as if we were tardy law students at Howard University. He further admonished a couple in the audience who’d been speaking through his monologue, letting them know that they’d been heard and he would be happy to entertain their questions or comments after his “lecture.” Ad libs aside, he continued without skipping a beat.
With a simple, effective set (Scenic Design, Allen Moyer) and appropriately minimal wardrobe adjustments (Costume Design, Jane Greenwood) the man christened “Thoroughgood” in turn-of-the-century Baltimore emerged to share his journey through segregation to his historic appointment to the highest court of the United States.
Fishburne’s impeccable turn as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice was full of humanity, humor and fitting dignity. His nuanced postural shifts and gradually hoarsening voice aged him with a subtlety that sidled quietly into the consciousness leaving the audience wowed by the passage of time.
The limited engagement has been extended to August 17. See it if you can.
Laurence Fishburne as “Thurgood” at the Booth Theatre
Here’s a video clip from back-in-the-day when newsmen like Mike Wallace smoked during interviews with prominent newsmakers like Thurgood Marshall.