Black mathematics professor Lewis has a terrible case of insomnia, and it’s not just the lack of sleep that’s bothering him. He’s being haunted by ghosts of his past – the one he’d hoped to leave behind by getting a Ph.D. and a university post and becoming a published author.
But now his white wife of 25 years wants a divorce. She says it’s because he won’t participate in the 1995 Million Man March, but it’s evident that their problems go deeper than that. She thinks he trying to deny his past.
Meanwhile, he tosses and turns, wishing to get away from these frightening blasts from the past – visions of great grandfather Simon (who was both educated and molested by his teenage master); grandfather Jesse, who got into trouble for entering a “whites only” church; father Charles and his older brother Rex.
“You gotta buncha white people sittin’ up in your head,” says Rex, a ’60s Black Power type. “You livin’ under a White Gaze.”
A festive faculty party given in his honor almost makes Lewis forget his otherness.
“I feel like a movie star,” he says, “until I notice one of the women staring at my hands like they are strange objects and she twitches with nervousness….Is she scared of my hands?
Barfield covers a lot of territory here, giving something like a history of the black American experience in a series of conversations.
The point of it all? Lewis puts it this way: “I can’t not be black.”
Lewis is magnificently played by Vimel Sephus, who seems to get better every time I see him. Cortez L. Johnson plays the other characters with astonishing versatility and the enviable ability to switch characters with just a change in tone, voice or movement.
“Blue Door” is amusing, heartbreaking and poignant in turns, a proud achievement in theater and a terrific production.
“Blue Door” plays through February 26, 2017 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or www.moxietheatre.com