23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Justice Served In This Engaging One Man Theatrical Presentation,
This review is from: Thurgood (DVD)
In staging a one man theatrical presentation, two things are certain--you've got to have a subject that is compelling enough to maintain interest and you've got to have a dynamic actor that holds an audience. In HBO's filmed adaptation of the stage show "Thurgood," we've got both! Timed for airing with Black History Month, this dramatic monologue (filmed before a live audience) brings the best of theater right into your living room. Thurgood Marshall is certainly a fascinating subject--from his early Civil Rights battles to his historical positioning in school segregation to his ascendancy to the Supreme Court, Marshall defied conventional expectations to become one of the most influential legal minds of several generations. Laurence Fishburne (another terrific actor lately relegated to the rather uninspired world of procedural TV crime drama) has a field day bringing the charismatic Marshall to life. It is certainly his most inspired and lively work in years. So the winning combination of Marshall and Fishburne make "Thurgood" a can't miss proposition--especially to lovers of theater!
Those completely new to the concept of a one man show should be aware that this is a piece that is reliant on words and performance. Aside from a couple of props and a creatively used backdrop that sets any particular scene, there is nothing here to watch except for Fishburne. So if you require extravagant production values or excessive visual stimulation, attending or watching a one man show may seem akin to watching grass grow. But if you appreciate engaging and intelligent wordplay and enjoy relevant history or even down home storytelling, it's hard not to be caught up in this delightful presentation. Marshall's life is played through its episodic high points (courtesy of a screenplay by George Stevens Jr.). Some of the film's essential moments include the historic battle of Brown versus The Board of Education, descriptions of the division between state law and constitutional provisions, and the cantankerous Supreme Court years in which judicial appointments evolve with political changes.
"Thurgood" is, ultimately, quite successful in detailing Marshall's career highlights. Personally, however, it is (by necessity and structure) a bit more superficial. References to his home life and his wives are played for pathos and/or humor as the situation dictates, but we never really see that side of Marshall. There are also plenty of comic asides that reference Marshall's wilder side--from drinking to an appreciation of women--that serve as levity points without being explored except as punchlines. But the intent of the piece was not to be a full scale biographical treatment of an entire life--it is an evening with the fictional Marshall as he regales you with his stories interpreted through his voice. As such, it is both informational and entertaining. And really, that's all one could hope for...and all that is needed! KGHarris, 3/11.