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Review: The Whipping Man at South Coast Rep

The Whipping Man tells the story of three men dealing with the fallout of the Civil War, coming from three different perspectives and yet finding their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. Caleb, a Confederate soldier, returns from the war wounded both physically and emotionally. He comes home to Simon and John, two of his former slaves who were recently freed. The three of them must try to make sense of their new lives and relationships, as everything they have ever known has been turned upside down.

I found the play to be compelling and emotionally riveting. The characters were strongly written and full of both ethos and imperfections, each dealing with the consequences of their own life choices and fears about the future.

The playwrights' decision to make the characters Jewish, and the exploration of their struggle with faith in the midst of suffering, created a storyline that prompted  many existential questions. I appreciated the nuanced look at how men were able to rationalize keeping slaves despite the contradictions with their faith.

I found the play to be both entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking. I was riveted for both acts and thought the acting was superb. I definitely recommend display to all adults, and feel that it would be appropriate and educational for children ages 13 and up.

The Whipping Man runs January 10-27 at South Coast Rep and transfers to Pasadena Playhouse February 3 – March 1.

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