Carlyle Review – Pushing the Right Political Buttons

Carlyle, the story of a young black man who just happens to be a Republican, opened at the Goodman Theatre to a full house of engaged audience members. It’s safe to say that everyone in attendance left thinking about politics in a different way. Thomas Bradshaw’s story of Carlyle is brilliantly brought to life by the amazing cast lead by James Earl Jones II, who portrays Carlyle Meyers superbly in both his weaknesses and strengths. Through its satirical telling of life as a black Republican, Carlyle hits many themes and discusses hot-button issues that are facing today’s population during this intense election year.

Charlette Speigner (Ensemble), Patrick Clear (Ensemble), Levenix Riddle (Omar), Tiffany Scott (Janice), James Earl Jones II (Carlyle Meyers), Tim Edward Rhoze (Carlyle’s Father), Nate Whelden (Ensemble) and Maureen Gallagher (Ensemble) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

The show begins with Carlyle’s privileged upbringing at a private high school in which he was the only black student. That all changed when two “thugs” (so they were called) began attending the same school as Carlyle and he began to embrace his African American roots.

James Earl Jones II (Carlyle Meyers) and Tim Edward Rhoze (Carlyle’s Father) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

When the new students were forced to leave, Carlyle became his old preppy self again, and upon graduation was accepted into Harvard. This moment brings out one of the bigger issues in the show, and that is the policies of Affirmative Action. Carlyle’s friends believed he was only accepted into Harvard because he was African American and not because of his grades. He tells his dad that he isn’t going to attend because he believes that Affirmative Action should be class-based and not race-based.

Levenix Riddle (Omar), James Earl Jones II (Carlyle Meyers) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

It is not until later in the story, after Carlyle has a rough go of it working on the Clinton campaign because of his views, that his father tells him he is a Republican and feels the same way about Affirmative Action. This leads to Carlyle getting a job on the Bush campaign where he meets his wife and ultimately gets a job as a clerk for his idol, Clarence Thomas.

James Earl Jones II (Carlyle Meyers) and Tiffany Scott (Janice) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

Tim Edward Rhoze (Carlyle’s Father) and Charlette Speigner (Ensemble) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

This is the turning point in the story where things become edgy and satirical. Gun rights and education become talking points, but after legitimate points are made, far right opinions begin being mentioned, some that would even shock the republican base. All in all, it was a show that brings up political points and racial views that are not always at the forefront of people's minds, and preaches the need for truth, fairness, and less hate in today’s political landscape.

Carlyle is a fast paced, laugh out loud comedy. It would that be a mistake to miss this show, especially as we close out the primary elections. This production is fresh and edgy. It makes you think, which all good theatre should do. Carlyle appears in the Goodman’s 350 flexible-seat, Owen Theatre, and runs from April 2 to May 1, 2016. Tickets are $10-$40, as well as special $10 student rates. Tickets are on sale now. For additional ticketing information and show details, please visit GoodmanTheatre.org, call 312.443.3800, or purchase tickets in person at the Box Office at 170 N. Dearborn.  

James Earl Jones II (Carlyle Meyers) in Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, directed by Benjamin Kamine at Goodman Theatre (April 2 – May 1, 2016)

 Photo Credit: Liz Lauren

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