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Whipping Man, The - Full Length Play, Drama

Whipping Man, The

Matthew Lopez

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Full Length Play, Drama


ISBN: 9780573697098

"Emotionally potent...surreal in the layers of meaning... a quiet force...We are in the hands of a playwright who wants to mess with our viscera." - The New York Times
"A mesmerizing drama." - Newark Star-Ledger

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Full Length Play


120 minutes (2 hours)

Time Period - American Civil War Era

Settings Of Play - The ruins of a once grand home in Richmond, Virginia.


Stage Combat, Special Effects

Interior Set

Period Costumes




Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)


College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Shoestring Budget, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups, Church / Religious Groups


From Off-Broadway

Winner! Outer Critics Circle Award, John Gassner Award
Nominee! Off Broadway Alliance Award, Best New Play
It is April, 1865. The Civil War is over and throughout the south, slaves are being freed, soldiers are returning home and in Jewish homes, the annual celebration of Passover is being celebrated. Into the chaos of war-torn Richmond comes Caleb DeLeon, a young Confederate officer who has been severely wounded. He finds his family's home in ruins and abandoned, save for two former slaves, Simon and John, who wait in the empty house for the family's return. As the three men wait for signs of life to return to the city, they wrestle with their shared past, the bitter irony of Jewish slave-owning and the reality of the new world in which they find themselves. The sun sets on the last night of Passover and Simon - having adopted the religion of his masters - prepares a humble Seder to observe the ancient celebration of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, noting with particular satisfaction the parallels to their current situation. But the pain of their enslavement will not be soothed by this tradition, and deep-buried secrets from the past refuse to be hidden forever as the play comes to its shocking climax.

"Emotionally potent...surreal in the layers of meaning... a quiet force...We are in the hands of a playwright who wants to mess with our viscera." - The New York Times

"A mesmerizing drama." - Newark Star-Ledger

"A cause for celebration. Mathew Lopez has come as close as any author could to producing a microcosm of the genesis of a wide range of today's Black American males." - Talkin' Broadway

"I can see why director Lou Bellamy chose this play for Penumbra, whose most famous alumnus is playwright August Wilson. In its complex welter of issues, in its interior explorations...The Whipping Man is Wilsonian." - Minneapolis Star-Ledger

"Succeeds with an uncanny maturity in using sharply drawn characters and rich metaphor to wrestle Wilson-like with epic American issues of race, religion, and responsibility. Someone must succeed Wilson; it might as well be Lopez" - Minnesota Monthly

The Whipping Man premiered at Luna Stage Company in Montclair, NJ in 2006. It was further developed and produced at Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, MN and at the Old Globe in San Diego, CA and opened off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club in February of 2011.





All Male, Ensemble cast, Multicultural casting, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)

SIMON - 50s; former slave in the DeLeon home.
CALEB - 20s; only child of the DeLeon family.
JOHN - 20s; former slave in the DeLeon home.
Matthew Lopez

Matthew Lopez

Matthew Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, one of the most widely produced new American plays of the last several seasons. Since its world premiere at Luna Stage in 2006, it has played at over two dozen theatres across the country including The Old Globe, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, The Alliance Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Barrington Stage, Hartford Stage, and Baltimore Centerstage. The ... view full profile

Now Playing
J. Thomas Kidd 9/24/2013 12:04 PM
Alicia Coombes 4/23/2013 11:47 PM
The characters and circumstances in this play are so multi-faceted and detailed, I can't stop thinking about them months after my first reading of it.  The story follows Caleb, a Jewish Confederate soldier who returns home  to his family's freed slaves days after the south has lost the Civil War.  Wounded and starving,  Caleb's life is saved by Simon and John, who are waiting for the dust to settle and for the only family they've ever known to return.   The house in Richmond is a shell, the city is fallen, and the future is uncertain, but the freedmen make plans for their new life.  As the three negotiate their roles in the world and relationships to each other, destructive secrets and settled scores threaten to undo them all.  Underscoring the action is Lincoln's assassination and a makeshift Passover feast which provides a sacred ceremony for the men to celebrate their new freedoms.

The compelling events of the story coupled with the layered modern telling of it make for both a fantastic read and a thought-provoking evening of theatre.  

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