From left: Ro Boddie portrays Lincoln and Yao Dogbe is Booth in "Topdog/Underdog" at the Round House Theatre. (Courtesy of Margot Schulman Photography)
From left: Ro Boddie portrays Lincoln and Yao Dogbe is Booth in "Topdog/Underdog" at the Round House Theatre. (Courtesy of Margot Schulman Photography)

“Topdog/Underdog” has been relevant since its off-Broadway premiere in 2001. It is a tale of two African American brothers who barely make it individually but live together to get by. ’ superb Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play is raw and heartbreaking, exposing painful layers of family and American history. Parks is the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in Drama for  “Topdog/Underdog.”  The production is at in Bethesda, Maryland, and has been extended until June 30.

“We hope there was enough of a cultural relevance of the time, 20 years ago,” said Director Jamil Jude about why “Topdog/Underdog” still delivers the right messages. “It still feels fresh for audiences today.”

Ro Boddie is Lincoln, the older brother, and Yao Dogbe is Booth, the energetic younger brother. They live in a one-room living space inside a walkup.  The one bed in their space belongs to Booth because it is his apartment, while Lincoln sleeps in a recliner chair. 

Though this is a two-person play, there are definitely other people in their thoughts who influence the brothers’ every move. Parents, not totally into a traditional family structure, impacted Lincoln’s and Booth’s relationships with women. Both brothers made money as street hustlers running three-card monte. One brother decides to try a regular job but is pulled back into the world of a hustler.

The brothers talk about their big dreams, but their conversations are more like boasting, where they often tear down each other’s visions.

“Topdog/Underdog” is intense, emotionally exhausting, and incredible at once. Boddie and Dogbe are exceptional. The highs and lows in their exchanges are believable. Although it is a lengthy play, the audience stays engaged. 

“We found a good rhythm in rehearsals. It’s pretty much remembering just to breathe,” said Boddie about the play’s pacing.

A thoughtful production, “Topdog/Underdog” highlights some conditions in America that still should be examined. 

“We have many problems in our society in the Black community,” said Dogbe. “I think this play encompasses those things in a very special way.  

See “Topdog/Underdog” before it ends on June 30 at Round House Theatre.

For information, call 240-644-1100 or purchase online at .

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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