From the NY Times Review by Mel Gussow, January 7, 1981
HUGHES ALLISON’S ”The Trial of Dr. Beck,” at the Henry Street Settlement’s New Federal Theater is a theatrical oddity, a courtroom melodrama about eugenics, ”the science of improving the quality of the human race” by means of ”a careful selection of parents.” The play was first presented on Broadway in 1937 by the company’s namesake, the W.P.A. Federal Theater, and has a minor significance in the history of black theater.
In this play, his sole Broadway venture, Mr. Allison, a writer of detective fiction who died in 1974, combined an interest in law, biology and sociology….
The play’s protagonist, a prosperous doctor in Harlem, is on trial for murdering his wife. In the course of testimony, it is revealed that the doctor, who is light-skinned, has a morbid disregard for people with dark skins, such as his wife. He has written a book in support of eugenics. Coincidentally, his wife and her twin sister have made millions by selling their patented brand of hair straightener. In other words, the root of the play is the erasure of black identity, an arcane subject to find dramatized in 1981 at Henry Street, the scene of so many socially relevant contemporary dramas.
|Set Designer||Robert Edmonds|
|Lighting Designer||Larry Johnson|
|Costume Designer||Carlo Thomas|
|Actor||Donald Walt Keyes|
|Actor||Latanya Richardson Jackson|
|Actor||Elizabeth Van Dyke|
All 1980-81 Season productions: