Fishburne Delivers in “Thurgood”

 By Dennis J. Freeman

 Westwood-To get an full appreciation of Lawrence Fishburne’s creative skills as one of the premier actors of this generation, it is a must to see him in “Thurgood,” a bicoastal stage play on the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Created by George Stevens and directed by Leonard Foglia,”Thurgood” is not just a stage biopic on the first black Supreme Court justice.

Actor Lawrence Fishburne turns up the heat in "Thurgood," a stage play on former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall./Photo/Carol Rosegg

 Now playing at the Geffen Playhouse through August 8, “Thurgood” is a masterful work of superb craftsmanship and creativity. Fishburne, known for his strong characters on the stage and in film, takes “Thurgood” to heights that perhaps can only be matched by the late Supreme Court justice himself.

 Fishburne delivers a home run of a performance as he takes the audience on the incredible journey that belongs to Justice Marshall. As he goes about narrating the life story of Justice Marshall, you don’t think about if you’re seeing Fishburne the actor. That’s because from the moment he appears, you’re quickly taken away into seeing Justice Marshall recall his life story as himself. And what you get is a real treat. The play’s running time of 95 minutes too short. That’s because Fishurne, who is the sole cast member in the play, is so deft at taking the audience on the lows and the highs of Justice Marshall’s life that any interruption is easily synchronized into his wonderful well of acting.

 “Thurgood” takes us inside the world of Justice Marshall that many have never seen or read about. What we do know about Justice Marshall is that he is a Howard University Law School graduate, serves as legal counsel for the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becomes a successful litigator in the front of the Supreme Court and engineers the High Court to rule favorably in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, which strikes down segregation in public education.

 But what we don’t know is that he is witty, funny, at times, temperamental. He is warm. And he has a heart for justice and equality for everyone. Using Howard University’s Law School Auditorium as a prop, Fishburne as Justice Marshall, takes us from his birthplace in Baltimore, Maryland to his days of pondering retirement from the Supreme Court Bench. From the days of the slave background of his grandfather to his appointment to the High Court, Justice Marshall gave to his country as Fishburne gives to us in a performance that comes once in a lifetime in “Thurgood.”

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