Theatre Review

Brown/Trinity Rep tackles difficult ‘Venus’


You have to admire the Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. acting and directing programs for tackling some of the most difficult plays ever written.

This month they are presenting Suzan-Lori Parks’ tour de force “Venus” and Samuel Beckett’s allegorical “Waiting For Godot” in repertory March 1 through 18. I was amazed with the talent in both directing and acting in Park’s difficult, repetitious and sometimes confusing play.

The story of the Venus Hottentot, an African slave whisked away to London to display her body in a freakish vaudeville-style show, is stretched out to two and a half hours by the prolific, avant garde writer, presenting scenes out of order, a repetitious chorus, and cross-dressing to the nth degree.

Liz Morgan is terrific as the “black goddess” who is anxious to free herself from the bonds of slavery, only to discover that she is still a slave to those who control and manipulate her. She is probed, fondled and put on display as a freak with big buttocks, dark skin and features that distinguish her from the white folks who pay to see her.

Sold to a doctor who continues to probe and fondle her, studying her every feature and becoming quite intimate with her, she searches for meaning and her own identity to the point of death.

I didn’t reveal anything there. We are told at the beginning of the play that “Venus Hottentot is dead. There will be no show tonight.” But there is a show. A long show that is filled with color, music, poetry, a side story and a backstory.

The conservatory students show tremendous talents under the direction of Ryan Guzzo Purcell, and those working on costumes, lights, sets, sound and all of the elements involved in “putting on a show” do outstanding work following the difficult script and stage directions. If you want to see a complex production, a kind of theatre of the absurd, this is the play for you.

There have been many versions and interpretations of “Waiting For Godot.” Brown/Trinity will give you theirs, also at the Pell Chafee Performance Center on Empire St. (next to AS220) in Providence. You’ll have an opportunity to see future Trinity and Broadway stars for the incredible price of $10 ($6 for students and seniors). Call 351-4242 for reservations, and check them out online at


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