Part three (“The Union of My Confederate Parts”) depicts the homecoming of Hero, who returns a changed man in more ways than one. Now known as Ulysses, he finds in Homer (Marcus Hopkins-Turner) a rival for the affections of his beloved Penny (Brittany Inge). As the sun sets, the others plan a run for their freedom, eventually leaving him to stew in a mess of his own devices — with only a talking dog, the aptly named Odyssey (Jason-Jamal Ligon), to keep him company.
The role of that nonsensical canine is a major misstep in Parks’ otherwise naturally powerful and honestly felt play. In addition to the highly resourceful turns by Davis and McDonald, director Wilkins also elicits discerning performances from Rob Cleveland (as a father figure to Hero) and Seun Soyemi, Damian Lockhart and Meagan Dilworth (among the chorus of slaves).
Cleaver, an undeniably talented actor, has a decidedly difficult task in portraying the morally ambiguous, ultimately flawed and hardly heroic protagonist of the piece. His characterization is mostly quite perceptive and skillfully shaded, although he has a tendency to rush a lot of his dialogue, to garbled effect.
Notwithstanding the show’s length, a slower and more deliberate approach on his part might have worked even greater wonders.
IN RELATED NEWS:
The 26-ton Texas, the famed engine that took part in the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase, has made its way back to Georgia.
“Father Comes Home From the Wars”
Through June 11. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $21.60-$37.80. Actor's Express (at King Plow Arts Center), 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-607-7469, www.actors-express.com.
Bottom line: Long and demanding, but engrossing and worthwhile.