When most people think about slavery, they think of Southern plantations during the Civil War, we think of masters resembling Scarlet O'Hara's family with slaves working in the houses and the fields. However that is a not a complete viewpoint.
Although rare, a few Southern plantations had Jewish owners who were immigrants fleeing their homelands of Germany, Russia, and Poland searching for religious freedom and a better life. About 1.5% of the slave-owners were in this category. When the War began, some of these people chose to move North to become abolitionists while a few chose to fight for the Confederacy in the belief that they were defending their homes and preserving the economy. Some actually bought slaves with the intention of giving them a better life and to keep them from the harsh plantation life of their neighbors.
The Whipping Man offers an interesting perspective. The Confederate forces had just surrendered, Caleb DeLeon is a wounded Confederate soldier who arrives at his family plantation house. As with all the large mansions of the time, they were in ruins from being looted, burned, and vandelized.
Caleb has been shot in the leg and is shocked to discover that his home is also in ruins.
Still living at the home is one faithful slave, Simon who has attempted to keep the entire estate as livable as possible. With the house surviving a fire, the furniture and valuables had been stolen, windows and mirrors broken, holes had been made in the walls and the floors where looters searched for hidden gems, and water damages from leaks in the roofs and ceilings.
The Civil War is now over and Caleb has returned to his childhood home. What is his relationship with the family's former slaves? Will they help him now that he is wounded?
As Simon, Carl Brooks is masterful as the older, faithful servant who has been promised his freedom. Andy Prescott portrays Caleb as the privileged Jewish heir who is aware of the changes since the War began but still does not completely understand them. Luther R. Simon is John was understands the changes and is an opportunist while reluctantly providing for both Simon and Caleb. All three are outstanding in becoming and completely becoming their character.
The Whipping Man is an exquisite play observing how the world had changed around these three men and their challenges in adjusting to this new world. This is an unusual play regarding the differences of love, friendship, loyalty and ownership. Can these occur simulataneously? Can they overlap or can they always be mutually exclusive?
This play has sets and costumes which perfectly fit the time period. The props, lighting, sound system, and stage direction also perfectly blended into an outstanding show.
The Whipping Man.is eighty minutes for the first part of the program with a fifteen minute intermission concluding with the final forty minutes.
The Whipping Man continues Thursdays through Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Howard Drew Theater in the Omaha Community Playhouse. Ticket prices are $ 36 for adults and $ 22 for students and can be obtained by calling 402-553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.org or TicketOmaha.com.
This adult show shows creativity and ingenuity in a thought-provoking show facing changes in lives and how to make peace with the past to live for the future.