Richard “Dick” Gregory is known by many names. Writer. Comedian. Activist. Actor, Entrepreneur. Also husband and father.
I’ve always added another title to his long list: prophet. Wiki says a prophet is an individual regarded as being in contact with a divine being and said to speak on that entity’s behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people. Read that again. In my opinion, they could have just put Dick Gregory’s picture there.
You can see, and feel…, all of Dick Gregory’s prophetic glory embodied in DC’s Arena Stage’s ‘Turn Me Loose.’
Actor, playwright and Houston native, Edwin Lee Gibson, perfectly nails his portrayal of the legendary Gregory, delivering the wit, sass and edgy commentary we are all expecting. From his long and piercing stares to his slow movements about (during Gregory’s senior years), Gibson has done his homework and lowers himself in order to raise Gregory in grand fashion to the audience.
Dick Gregory was prophetic in his early years, in being one of the first black comedians to bring racial humor to audiences nationwide. No doubt to start the conversation the best way he knew how – through humor and perspective, while also using it as a sword to pierce through thick layers of bias, fear and a status quo that needed to change.
“My humor was my sword and my switchblade was my mouth,” – Dick Gregory
Gibson’s banter with the heckler and only other character in the play, played by John Carlin, had a way of being cringe-worthy and relieving simultaneously, all the while being hilariously welcomed. Be sure to add comic, cabbie and interviewer to Carlin’s brief roles in the play as well.
Directed by John Gould Rubin and written by Gretchen Law, ‘Turn Me Loose,’ takes you through Gregory’s years of being a young sharp-tongued comic, to his senior years where his added experience made him even bolder and continue to slice through current events in his signature matter of fact style.
Maybe little known, Law was chosen by Gregory himself to write the play, after she wrote a character for him in another play. “I sent him the script for the hell of it and he really liked it,” Law shared in another interview.
Years later when Gregory’s office was contacted by John Rubin about including a segment on Dick for another piece, they suggested that Law write it. That small piece later become ‘Turn Me Loose.’
If you are a lover of Dick Gregory, stand-up comedy, history or even being stretched in your thinking, there is much to enjoy with this play, which is well-done and on par with the Arena Stage’s high quality performance offerings. Additionally, the play is in association with John Legend, Get Lifted Film Company, Mike Jackson, The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, Beth Hubbard, The Private Theatre, Eric Falkenstein, SimonSays Entertainment, Jamie Cesa and Jana Babatunde-Bey.
Performance Time: Approximately 90 minutes-no intermission.
Advisory: Adult themes & language.