A wave of silence gripped the crowd as lights dimmed in the packed Boston University theatre last Friday. Moments earlier chattering voices buzzed, but suddenly a pin drop could be heard.
Everyone seemed to be holding their breath, unsure of what the production of Invisible Man would bring.
Invisible Man is an African-American classic published in 1952 and written by Ralph Ellison. Since then it’s been highly acclaimed. But it was this production, written by Oren Jacoby and directed by Christopher McElroen, that brought life to Ellison’s book for the very first time.
The theatrical adaptation depicts the story of an “unnamed, idealistic, young African-American [as he] searches for identity and his place in the world as he journeys through 1930s America – from the Deep South to Harlem,” according to Rebecca Curtiss, Huntington Theatre Company’s communications manager.
Facing the small stage were nearly 500 people who watched intently as Teagle F. Bougere, the star of the show, opened with the line “I am an invisible man.”
With every line, he and fellow cast members, 10 actors total, spoke emphatically. Looks of attentiveness and murmurs of affirmation — especially from the few invisible men and women present — were frequent. Occasional laughs, when echoed, lightened the mood, if only for a short while.
“I think it’s good. It’s in your face, it’s out there and they’re definitely not sugar-coating anything up in here which is good,” said Jennifer Tawiah, 31, of Jamaican Plain. “It’s interesting to look around, there aren’t too many colored folks in here but that’s Boston for you.”