Review on the play Topdog/Underdog

In the documentary, The Topdog Diaries, Suzan-Lori Parks states that while writing Topdog/Underdog she did not strategize to form a theme based on race. Many people have asked her “What’s [the play] about?” and “What are the issues you’re trying to defend?” She opposes with “Black people when they hang out is it an exploration of race, just two black people in a room together?” Though I concede that Parks did not intend to write a play on racial issues, I still insist that Topdog/Underdog portrays exemplary examples of discrimination in America today. To kickoff this theme, the characters, Lincoln and Booth, are named after two historical white men and are played by two black actors. This is an ironic start to the play and automatically delves into the social history of the United States and slavery. Booth, the underdog, does not have a job, is striving to be the best hustler in three card monte, and boosts every item that he owns. These actions contribute to the African American stereotypes in large cities today. On the other hand, Lincoln actually has a job that supports both him and his brother. However, the only way Link could get this job was to put on white face and it consisted of dressing as Abraham Lincoln and getting “assassinated” daily by paying customers.
The black man playing the Great Emancipator just adds to the racial satire in the play. I believe the title, Topdog/Underdog, is also tied to the act of reversing black and white characters and all of the undertones on race. It could be interpreted as the white population being the topdogs and African Americans being the underdogs. Unfortunately, we live in a dog-eat-dog world and our nation’s history has contributed largely to discrimination among African Americans. Although Parks did not intentionally write this play based on the explorations of race, I argue that these issues are what embody the play most.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.