In a collaboration that’s just as winning as it’s been in the past, director Gilbert McCauley (“Fences,” “The Piano Lesson”) and actor Lawrence Hamilton have teamed to bring James Still’s one-man show to the Rep. The play follows Alonzo Fields, the White House’s first African-American chief butler, as he reminisces about his 21 years in the White House from a bus bench across the street after his last day on the job.
Hamilton, always eloquent and erect as vocalist, fills the role of Fields with an easy grace. In monologues, he’s reflective about his choices of paths taken and not. In anecdotes about presidents and first families and dignitaries, he’s a convincing mimic, though no matter how famous the character (Winston Churchill, Marian Anderson and Errol Flynn make appearances) it’s always Fields’ motivations and insights that we care about most. Throughout, the production achieves a conversational intimacy with the audience, as if Fields is talking directly to them.
Hamilton’s not completely alone onstage. Set designer Mike Nichols and production designer Matthew Webb support him with two picture-framed large video screens, which project images and video of people and places Fields recalls, which serves as a huge help to those who slept through Presidential History and, more importantly, livens up the spare stage.