The world-premiere of this admirable little play about race relations is one of the last events of the County-wide Lift Ev’ry Voice Festival celebrating African-American culture and heritage here. The other two theatrical offerings, Going to St. Ives (already closed) and The Best of Enemies (currently in previews), both at Barrington Stage, have been getting considerably more hype. Until last week I literally thought I was going to see a play about Dutch painters or their paintings.
Instead I saw a concise and intriguing new work about the apparently chance meeting in the New York City subway of a young white man, Steve (Christian Coulson), and a young black man, Eric (Amari Cheatom), who, it turns out, have much more uniting and dividing them than they thought. The title refers to the box of cigars the boys buy to use as materials for a blunt they share. Eric explains to Steve that the Dutch Masters were the tobacco – and slave – traders of the Dutch West India Company. Steve explains to Eric that they were painters and that the picture on the cover of the box is a Rembrandt*. Both of them are right.
Playwright Greg Keller has been acting with the BTF for many years now, but this is the first play of his they have produced, although he has been writing for a while now and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard and has had plays workshopped and produced in New York. Dutch Masters had a workshop production at LAByrinth Theater Company last summer.