Let there be no doubt that The Best of Enemies with Aisha Hinds (above leftl) and John Bedford Lloyd (right) is one of the most important historical plays about America to ever reach the stage. It is also the finest drama I have ever seen at Barrington Stage. It is a modern day parable of the civil rights movement of the 1970′s that expands dry, historical fact into a riveting tale of two polar opposites clashing over how to integrate the schools of Durham, North Carolina.
To capture the sweep and detail of the battle for black rights in the South of forty years ago is no easy task. Playwright Mark St. Germain contrasts the role that C.P. Ellis had promoting white supremacy with Ann Atwater, a homespun black activist, who is a rare voice in the community, speaking up for simple justice and equal education. The stage treatment for this explosive confrontation was inspired by Osha Gray Davidson’s book of the same name, The Best of Enemies.
St. Germain has kept his story focused on just a few people, yet these larger than life shapers of history are highly charged theatrically. His approach to detailing the civil rights era comes to life in a way that more scholarly approaches would tend to bland out.