Black Jewish Slaves and Their Struggles

In the opening scene of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, a Confederate soldier has a gangrenous leg amputated. The lopping off is performed by a slave of the DeLeons, a plantation family in Virginia. Here’s the kicker: they’re Jewish and so are their slaves. The irony of Jews owning slaves, let alone Jewish slaves, goes right over the DeLeons’ pious, skullcapped heads.

Lopez’s play revolves around an instance of synchronicity. On April 12, 1865, the Confederates sealed their surrender to the Union at Appomattox Courthouse. It came two days before the start of that year’s Passover, the Jewish holiday that marks the freeing of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Centuries later in Virginia, the black Jewish slaves are forced to question their religion and their old masters while testing out their newly free wills.

The Whipping Man at Caldwell Theatre (7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton) runs August 12 through August 30. Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $47.50 or less. Call 561-241-7432, or visit caldwelltheatre.com.
Wednesdays-Sundays; Wed., Sept. 9. Starts: Aug. 13. Continues through Aug. 30, 2009

 
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