Invisible Man is approaching the end of it’s run at Studio Theatre and is the first authorized adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel “Invisible Man”. I came into the production having never read the novel and not knowing the story. For the unitiated the show follows the life of our unnamed African American lead character recalling his life from his youth in the deep south, to college and ultimately to New York City. The entire cast deserves tremendous credit for the acting performances that they put forward, as it was stellar from the onset to the very end from top to bottom as each actor takes on multiple characters. Special note belongs to Teagle Bougere who plays the unnamed lead character and is on stage for the entire show and was completely engaging throughout. Also noteworthy to me was the performance of Edward James Hyland who seemingly transformed into multiple characters, from an elderly white trustee at the University, to a scholarly leader for the lead characters employer in New York. His performance made you wonder if there were actually multiple actors playing these different roles. Also noteworthy was the performance Brian D. Coates whose performance of his many roles made it difficult to take your eyes off of him when he was taking center stage with the Invisible Man.
As I stated, I have never read the novel and yet found the entire show, a 3 hour 3 act play, completely engaging, especially the first two acts of the show. The show becomes somewhat confusing in the third act for those who haven’t read the novel and are not aware of the story. However, I often find that to be the case of well read stories or historical dramas that are converted to theater, as there seems to be an assumption that the viewer is well versed in the story prior to viewing it. I was undeterred by that confusion in the third act and enjoyed the story for what it was. I subsequently read a brief synopsis of the book and the story of the third act became much clearer as to what was going on and who the characters were representing. While I was not on the ball with what was going on, I was correct in the overarching theme that was being presented. However, my girlfriend (who also had not read the book) was turned off by the third act of the show and the lack of clarity as to who and what was going on. As I said, I chalk that up to the script not being written for those that do not know the story.
That being said, I don’t feel the novel needs to be read to enjoy this production and the performances. Never mind the masterful set. I would suggest checking out a brief snapshot of the novel on the internet if you don’t want to read the book so the cultural battle that was going on in the third act is more clearly defined and less confusing to those that have not read the novel.