Every Night When the Sun Goes Down, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. I’d be curious to see a competent revival of this 1974 script by Phillip Hayes Dean. Terry Cullers’s direction is so screamingly bad that you start wondering what another sensibility might make of Dean’s lowlife caricatures and fire-this-time rage. After all, nobody thought much of True West, either, until Steppenwolf got hold of it.
But I suspect that even a great director would be hard-pressed to come up with a worthwhile approach. At first Dean’s collection of ghetto misfits suggests a nightclub scene in some stylized Harlem Renaissance painting. It isn’t long, though, before the stylization subsides into cartoonishness and the characters become nothing more than hosts for every free-floating cliche associated with the underside of urban black America in the mid-20th century. You got your strung out pimp, your true-blue whore, your reborn ex-con, your would-be rackets king, your high yellow patrician in free fall, your janitor gone silly on whiskey, and your beat cop gone silly on rectitude. Every so often one of them will spring a surprise–like the pimp’s ecstatic paean to getting high–but taken together, these folks present an unbreachable fortress of trite.
My theory is that this play was Dean’s attempt to channel The Iceman Cometh through Amiri Baraka. He didn’t have the chops to pull it off, and Cullers is the last man on earth capable of helping him.