A pair of plays have just opened that pose intriguing questions about what fate may have in store for each of us that changes the rules of thriving. And in a third audacious work, Anne Washburn’s fable “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” we’ll review next week, adds “surviving” to that equation.
‘Fetch Clay, Make Man’
Playwright Will Power captured the imagination of lucky theatergoers who saw his unforgettable one man diatribe “Flow” a decade ago. Since then, in addition to adding to his playwriting laurels, Power has spent much of his time pursuing his intrigue with the unique relationship that Cassius Clay formed with the black comic film actor Stepin Fetchit — whose stage name became the latter’s calling card — and led to his becoming the boxer’s guide during training for Clay’s fabled 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston.
The result of Power’s research and insight have become “Fetch Clay, Make Man” just opened at New York Theatre Workshop. There, it’s currently sharing the potently revealing, magnificently researched tale of how Clay enlisted the actor — based on the boxer’s idolatry of Fetchit’s prizefighting buddy Jack Johnson — to help him create a proper technique for a sure victory for the man who, after his first Liston fight had become a very vocal voice for the Black Muslim movement. Born Lincoln Perry, a shrewd thriving businessman, “Fetchit” had traded his dignity to carve a place for black actors in Hollywood. And, as strongly drawn by Power, appears to be the catalyst that enabled the future Mohammed Ali to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” in his knockout return bout with Liston.