Centered squarely on the Negro-white conflict, both Dutchman and The Slave are literally shocking plays--in ideas, in language, in honest anger. They illuminate as with a flash of lightning a deadly serious problem--and they bring an eloquent and exceptionally powerful voice to the American theatre.
Dutchman opened in New York City on March 24, 1964, to perhaps the most excited acclaim ever accorded an off-Broadway production and shortly thereafter received the Village Voice's Obie Award. The Slave, which was produced off-Broadway the following fall, continues to be the subject of heated critical controversy.
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Train roars. Lights flash outside the windows.
LULA enters from the rear of the car in bright, skimpy summer clothes and sandals. She carries a net bag full of paper books, fruit, and other anonymous articles. She is wearing sunglasses, which she pushes up on her forehead from time to time. LULA is a tall, slender, beautiful woman with long red hair hanging straight doom her back, wearing only loud lipstick in somebody's good taste. She is eating an apple, very daintily. Coming down the car toward CLAY.
She stops beside CLAY's seat and hangs languidly from the strap, still managing to eat the apple. It is apparent that she is going to sit in the seat next to CLAY, and that she is only waiting for him to notice her before she sits.
CLAY sits as before, looking just beyond his magazine, now and again pulling the magazine slowly back and forth in front of his face in a hopeless effort to fan himself. Then he sees the woman hanging there beside him and he looks up into her face, smiling quizzically.
CLAY. Uh, hi're you?
LULA. I'm going to sit down .... O.K.?
[Savings down onto the seat, pushing her legs straight out asif she is very weary]
Oooof! Too much weight.
CLAY. Ha, doesn't look like much to me.[Leaning back against the window, a little surprised and maybe stiff]
LULA. It's so anyway.[And she moves her toes in the sandals, then pulls her right leg up on the left knee, better to inspect the bottoms of the sandals and the back of her heel. She appears for a second not to notice that CLAY is sitting next to her or that she has spoken to him just a second before.CLAY looks at the magazine, then out the black window. As he does this, she turns very quickly toward him]Weren't you staring at me through the window?
CLAY.[Wheeling around and very much stiffened]What?
LULA. Weren't you staring at me through the window? At the last stop?
CLAY. Staring at you? What do you mean?
LULA. Don't you know what staring means?
CLAY. I saw you through the window . . . if that's what it means. I don't know if I was staring. Seems to me you were staring through the window at me.
LULA I was. But only after I'd turned around and saw you staring through that window down in the vicinity of my ass and legs.
LULA. Really. I guess you were just taking those idle potshots. Nothing else to do. Run your mind over people's flesh.
CLAY. Oh boy. Wow, now I admit I was looking in your direction. But the rest of that weight is yours.
LULA. I suppose.
CLAY. Staring through train windows is weird business. Much weirder than staring very sedately at abstract asses.
LULA. That's why I came looking through the window . . . so you'd have more than that to go on. I even smiled at you.
CLAY. That's right.
LULA. I even got into this train, going some other way than mine. Walked down the aisle . . . searching you out.
CLAY. Really? That's pretty funny.
LULA. That's pretty funny . . . . God, you're dull.
CLAY. Well, I'm sorry, lady, but I really wasn't prepared for party talk.
LULA. No, you're not. What are you prepared for? [Wrapping the apple core in a Kleenex and dropping it on the floor]
CLAY.[Takes her conversation as pure sex talk. He turns to confront her squarely with this idea] I'm prepared for anything. How about you?
LULA.[Laughing loudly and cutting it off abruptly]
What do you think you're doing?
LULA. You think I want to pick you up, get you to take me somewhere and screw me, huh?
CLAY. Is that the way I look?
LULA. You look like you been trying to grow a beard. That's exactly what you look likes You look like you live in New Jersey with your parents and are trying to grow a beard. That's what. You look like you've been reading Chinese poetry and drinking lukewarm sugarless tea.
[Laughs, uncrossing and recrossing her legs]
You look like death eating a soda cracker.
CLAY.[Cocking his head from one side to the other, embarrassed and trying to make some comeback, but also intrigued by what the woman is saying . . . even the sharp city coarseness of her voice, which is still a kind of gentle sidewalk throb]
Really? I look like all that?
LULA. Not all of it.
[She feints a seriousness to cover an actual somber tone]
I lie a lot.
It helps me control the world.
CLAY.[Relieved and laughing louder than the humor]
Yeah, I bet.
LULA. But it's true, most of it, right? Jersey? Your bumpy neck?
CLAY. How'd you know all that? Huh? Really, I mean about Jersey . . . and even the beard. I met you before? You know Warren Enright?
LULA. You tried to make it with your sister when you were ten. [CLAY leanes back hard against the back of the seat, his eyes opening now, still trying to look amused] But I succeeded a few weeks ago. [She starts to laugh again]
CLAY. What're you talking about? Warren tell you that You're a friend of Georgia's?
LULA. I told you I lie. I don't know your sister. I don't know Warren Enright.
CLAY. You mean you're just picking these things out of the air?
LULA. Is Warren Enright a tall skinny black black boy with a phony English accent?
CLAY. I figured you knew him.
LULA. But I don't. I just figured you would know somebody like that. [Laughs]
CLAY. Yeah, yeah.
LULA. You're probably on your way to his house now. clay. That's right.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Dutchman and the Slave are two plays by Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) from 1964. Both plays deal with black/white relations, specifically slave heritage and oppressor heritage respectively. Also, both make the point that sexual relations across racial lines does not increase understanding, nor should it contribute to any sense of authority about the life of the other.In the Dutchman, we witness a subway ride with Clay, a early-20s middle class black man, and Lula, a closer to 30, provocative white woman. Throughout the play Lula teases Clay, hints towards the prospect of sex, claims to know about his "type", then later moves towards insults and "Uncle Tom" derisions, escalating the scene significantly. Basically, at its core, Clay is representative of black assimilationists, and Lula could be any white liberal who claims to know how black people are and how they should be, and Amiri Baraka ultimately seems to have no patience for either one of them.If the Dutchman is full of hatred, the Slave takes that theme to a whole different level. In this play, we have 3 characters Grace and Easley, a white liberal couple; and Walker a black man that we are first introduced to as drunk with a gun, but later find out that he is the ex-husband of Grace. In the background explosions indicate a present or future war between blacks and whites. Walker is the leader of a violent radical black liberation movement whose ultimate goal seems to be to kill all white people. We learn that Grace had left Walker years before for the very simple reason that if his goal was to kill all white people, and she happened to be white, then she couldn't consider herself safe. Even though Walker is a murderer, he is still clearly a victim in this play, since the need for violent racial war could only arise out of decades of oppression without relief. The vitriol builds in this play in such a way that there is only one inevitable conclusion.These are shocking, angry plays, but especially for the time, gestures such as these were probably the only things that could wake up some people.