The comical, heartfelt story of two African-American brothers — Lincoln, played by actor Tyrone Henderson, and Booth, played by Brandon Dirden — has come to life onstage in Suzan-Lori Parks’ acclaimed play “Topdog/Underdog.”
The play runs Jan. 26 through Feb. 29 at the UNC-Chapel Hill Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art.
“Topdog/Underdog” examines the notion of sibling rivalry.
It tells the stories of Lincoln and Booth as they face the challenges of finding their true purposes in life.
Their obsession with the three-card game hustle is a recurring symbol throughout the play that illustrates the constant struggle the characters face with their undeniable past and what they are soon to confront in the near future.
Parks was the first African-American woman to win the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for excellent work with this play.
Born in Fort Knox, Ky., Parks has been writing since the age of five and began a career as a playwright during her undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
Her works include the plays “Betting on the Dust Commander” and “The Sinner’s Place.”
Spike Lee directed her screenplay “Girl” in 1996.
The play consists of only characters, drawing the audience in to an intimate setting shared by two brothers.
This intimacy gives the audience a close perspective into the world of two brothers who grow up together.
Booth’s character is referred to as the underdog in relation to his brother Lincoln.
Unlike his brother, who gave up the hustling days to earn an honest living as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, Booth is a troublesome, unemployed character.
He attempts to lure his brother back into being a three-card hustler.
Dirden describes Booth as childlike on the surface but very intelligent and complex.
“He’s like a cat you don’t pay attention to when you walk past him in the streets,” said Dirden.
Dirden believes that dissecting a play is not easy, but thus far, “Topdog/Underdog” has received positive feedback.
“It’s all about what you bring to the play,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful play in its ugliness.”
Mitchell and Dirden built a thriving friendship throughout the play.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better situation.
“Tyrone in a giving actor,” said Dirden.
“We are really cool people with no egos.
“We work well together,” he said.
Dirden also has appeared on Broadway in “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Othello” and on TV in “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”
“Topdog/Underdog” is presented by Playmakers Repertory Company, the professional theatre-in-residence at the UNC-Chapel Hill.
The opening performance is at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Paul Green Theatre. For tickets or more info, visit playmakersrep.org or call 919-962-PLAY.