Oracle Theatre’s “This House Believes…” Review – Tragic Bellwether of Enduring Racism

How tragic that a seminal debate on race relations in America that was held in Cambridge University in 1965 should have such resonance with current events!


Ben Harpe is the narrator for the viewing audience


Indeed, Oracle Theatre’s production of “This House Believes the American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro” ricochets in your imagination with headlines of Ferguson+. 


Johnard Washington as James Baldwin


Who was James Baldwin (Johnard Washington), one of the debaters, if not one of the early and most cogent voices to say in so many words “Black Lives Matter”. 


Jeremy Clark as William F. Buckley Jr.


He is up against the formidable William F. Buckley (Jeremy Clark) whose silver tongue seems to make a point or two but is so laced with a racist framework that the Whites in the audience likely cringe and the African-Americans feel the lash yet again.


Cast members who are playing Cambridge students supporting one or another side plant themselves amidst audience members


Then again, you get to vote in this production.  Like true Cambridge style debates of modern day the tally is taken before the debate begins of audience feelings on the central question and then again at the performance conclusion.  The debater who has swayed the most votes “wins”.  Alas, in the real world we all lose in the reality of this play’s poignant and painful relevancy to racism in the American fabric that just won’t die-die-die.


You get to vote yes or no on the proposition that is debated


Free to the public and provocative, Oracle Theatre’s last remount of this play this year runs through September 19. 


For tickets and information visit the Oracle Theatre website.


Oracle Theatre

3809 N Broadway

Chicago, IL 60613




Photos:  Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

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