“The Tallest Tree in the Forest” is an intellectually provocative one-man show now playing at the Mark Taper Forum. Written and performed by Daniel Beaty and earning him Obie and NAACP awards, the play is about a giant among men: Paul Robeson. This weekend is your last chance to catch this production.
Robeson was a man who garnered academic and athletics honors and might have found a rewarding career as a lawyer if racism hadn’t held him back. Instead, he left a legal career that left him behind the scenes and went center stage on Broadway as the first black actor to perform Shakespeare’s Othello and to grudgingly sing a song that would become his signature melody: “Ol’ Man River” from the musical “Showboat.”
Beaty doesn’t just give us Robeson as a young boy who grows to an angry young man and then ages until finally he is alone. Beaty voices his older brother, his father and his wife among others. One person portraying different characters quarreling tends to make an argument more of an academic linguistic exchange than a heated fight of overtalking and interruptions. That would be the biggest weakness of this show. You want to imagine how much for vividly realized this would have been with an actress portraying Robeson’s wife who suffered through is infidelities. still the show is a powerful walk through history.
“The Tallest Tree in the Forest” ends 25 May 2014 at the Mark Taper Forum. For more information visit their official website.