The force of unexpurgated truth distinguishes "Do Lord Remember Me" at Theatre/Theater. James de Jongh's docudrama, drawn from recorded interviews with ex-slaves in the 1930s, transcends reader's theater contours through the power of its content.
Originally performed in 1977, "Do Lord Remember Me" stems from oral histories compiled during the Depression by the Federal Writers' Project. Although De Jongh conflates some individuals, his text comes verbatim from the transcribed memories. Using spirituals -- beautifully overseen by musical director Paul Wong -- as unifying motif, "Do Lord Remember Me" may offend the politically correct with its use of the N-word and Southern patois. Yet that's how its subjects spoke, and De Jongh honors their voices.
These recollections unfold against designer James Esposito's backdrop reproduction of the woodcut of a shackled slave that appeared with John Greenleaf Whittier's "Our Countrymen in Chains." It's all here: the auction block, outwitting of white masters, enduring starvation and sexual exploitation, broken families, the Union Army, emancipation.
Whether earning laughs from homespun superstitions or jerking tears with accounts of unthinkable cruelty, the script gives the lie to countless Hollywood stereotypes and rivets the house.