Theater: Digging for the Roots

Two musicals limn the troubles and triumphs of blacks

In white America, a black man's otherness is stamped indelibly on his face. Whether he runs the 100-meter dash or runs for President, whether he orates like Martin Luther King Jr. or drawls like Stepin Fetchit, his color sets him apart. For him the American melting pot can sear faster than it assimilates. And so he looks to his roots, finding solace in soul, while fixing an eye on the main chance of upward mobility. His tragedy is that, in both worlds, he may end...

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