by Holli Harms
For 60 minutes I was glued to my computer screen as I watched Jeff Stetson’s The Meeting unfold. This play, his play, is about a fictional meeting in 1965 between Malcolm X (Joseph L. Edwards) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Beethovan Oden). The dreamer and the revolutionary meet and spar as if in a ring. Sparing with words. Two men fighting for the same cause in very different ways. It is a conversation between two icons, two men, two fathers, two people wanting more for their people and their country and going about it at opposite sides of the same coin. The dialogue – the anger, and frustrations, the trying to convince the other one to see their side, to understand why they are doing what they are doing, is spectacular. It builds and soars and crashes and gnashes its teeth and you are riding these waves and crashing with them.
It opens with the anticipation of Dr. King’s arrival at a Hotel in Harlem with Malcolm and his bodyguard (Tyler Fauntleroy) discussing Dr. King and the hopes and expectations for the meeting. In reality, Malcolm X did try to set up a meeting with Dr. King but due to circumstances it never happened.
Oden and Edwards embody the two men. The entire performance is filmed in black and white, which copies the pictures we all know of these two giants. The costumes are exactly what they are wearing in all those historic shots. It felt as if I was watching Dr. King and Malcolm X brought back to life. Ajene D. Washington’s direction of this powerful piece is a delicate touch, a laying on of hands. This outstanding evening is brought to us by Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre (NFT) to celebrate Black History Month. It is a wonderful gift. The original production of the play was produced in 1987 by NTF and in 1989 it was televised on American Playhouse.
New Federal Theater has been doing a lot during this pandemic to bring theater to its patrons free of charge. All of it beautiful and poignant and smashingly good. Find out more about the NFT and their upcoming virtual performances HERE. Donations will be gratefully accepted.
The Meeting written by Jeff Stetson, directed by Ajene D. Washington
With: Joseph L. Edwards as Dr. Martin Luther King, Beethovan Oden as Malcolm X, and Tyler Fauntleroy as Malcolm’s bodyguard.
Producing Director Woodie King Jr., Artistic Director, and Producer Elizabeth VanDyke, Stage Manager John Scutchins, Technical Director/Editor Michele Baldwin, Costumes Kathy Robeson