Culture Pick!: Invisible Man at Studio Theatre

Culture Pick!: Invisible Man at Studio Theatre

Photo credit: Astrid Reiken

“Play the game, but don’t believe in it.” An unnamed train passenger tries to give the Invisible Man this invaluable piece of advice on their way from Alabama to Harlem. This lesson is one Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, portrays well, but is even possibly more vivid on stage.  Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby’s adaptation of the novel for the stage does not stray from the work’s difficult issues, and the lead actor, Teagle F. Bougere is amazing. Though he is “invisible” it is near impossible to miss his excellent portrayal of naivete and gullibility in the face of cunning friends and foes alike.

As the anonymous character struggles through scenario after scenario where he has yet to learn his lesson about choosing his own life for himself you’ll be desperate for a “wake up!” moment like in Spike Lee’s School Daze, but the play is definitely worth the entire ride. The three-hour run-time was intimidating at first. There are two 10 minute intermissions, and the story flows well enough that you don’t notice the length until perhaps the last half hour. Like Ellison’s actual text the play’s denouement into the theoretical world isn’t as exciting as the first half, but the section is no less critical. Any life changing awakening is difficult to experience, let alone depict, and watching Bougere transform from unaware to cynical is engaging.

Though the novel is set in the ‘50s, the multimedia used in the piece doesn’t take away from the work.  The projector is used well to set various scenes and enhance the very small, static stage. The set seems busy at first, but every piece is well used.  Of the remainder of the ensemble besides Bougere, the standout is McKinley Belcher III as both Trueblood and Ras the Exhorter.  As Trueblood McKinley makes you thoroughly uncomfortable as he describes how his daughter became pregnant, and as Ras his challenge to the Invisible Man’s blackness will be a familiar refrain many of us have grappled with our entire lives.

Invisible Man is playing now and runs through October 14th. Tickets range in price, but seats during the week are sometimes less expensive than weekend shows. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 202.332.3300.

Studio Theatre is located at 1501 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005, which is a short walk from the U Street/African American Civil War Memorial Metro Station near P Street.


Shonda Goward is our resident culturalist and foodie with an interest in entertaining, and a know-how about all things domestic, aesthetic and tasteful. Got a LSP Pick!? Contact Shonda here.

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