André Holland, better known as an actor, brings a deft hand as a director to Greg Keller’s play, Dutch Masters. It is an intriguing, tense and thoughtful two hander that rifts on race and class while exploring a relationship between two young men who meet by happenstance on the subway.
Set in 1992, before cell phones made everyone feel a little safer and the subway was a bit more frightening, Eric, an African – American young man, initiates a conversation with Steve – a young white man trying to ignore everything around him. Talking on the subway is disconcerting enough, and Eric makes it more so by pushing a conversation even though Steve is trying to politely ignore him. The play keeps the audience guessing at motives. Eric is too interested in Steve, sometimes threatening and other times ingratiating. When Eric convinces or demands that Steve get off the train to get high with him, we don’t understand much, except this is a bad idea.
What follows is fascinating. Eric slowly dishes out information that convinces Steve that Eric knows a lot more than he lets on. Small insights and random details about Steve’s life. It is enough to keep Steve interested and uncomfortable. After this, the play turns, again and again, in ways that are unexpected.
Ian Duff plays Eric, a street kid who is smart, with a forceful personality both seductive and a bit frightening. Mr. Duff is excellent in the role, playing off the street-ness of Eric without falling into stereotypical behavior. Steve is played by Jake Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz does a great job in a role that is deferential without being too wimpy. Steve tries extra hard to not be a racist, but is tripped up by Eric’s actions, only to find they are often an act.
Dutch Masters is about the way these two young adults see life, often even the same incidents, through completely different eyes. Sometimes the views are aligned, but more often disparate vantage points preclude a common understanding. It is done wonderfully and I recommend Dutch Masters highly. It is a surprising and interesting show designed to pull you off center.
Dutch Masters | Playwright: Greg Keller | Director: André Holland |Cast: Ian Duff, Jake Horowitz | website