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July 15, 2013

Brian Anthony Wilson: From "The Wire" to 'The Whipping Man'

Brian Anthony WilsonIs anyone else smitten with this guy? He's not quite a household name, considering that a number of his films, and small parts in them, are pretty forgettable.

But Brian Anthony Wilson's guest turns on "The Wire" are not forgettable. On the HBO series, sadly long over, Wilson had me at "detective." That is, Detective Vernon Holley. (Who comes up with these names?) And I remember his face, if not specific roles, on the "Law and Order" franchise, and spotted him in the more recent Silver Linings Playbook.

Wilson, 53, has played numerous film and TV characters since his 1997 breakout in a movie called The Postman. A big man with a bald head and piercing brown eyes, he seems a natural for tough-guy parts. (Me, I love his freckles.) But, btw, he can sing, too.

Right now, Wilson, a Philadelphia native, is summering in Vermont. That is, by acting in Dorset Theatre Festival's production of The Whipping Man. The show, penned by Matthew Lopez, is lately being produced all over the place, perhaps because it is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In it, Wilson plays a character named Simon, who is a former slave and a de facto father figure to other characters. In an interesting wrinkle, he is also a Jew, having been "owned" and raised by a Jewish family.

The Whipping Man opened in Dorset this past week and has received kudos in regional papers so far. A review in the Advocate said:

What follows is not only the expected examination of race and religion — issues that remain to this day — but also more irony and twists than one playwright should be allowed to inject on stage.

Still, it works. It mesmerizes. It laments. Most importantly, it educates.

I'm bummed that I won't have the time to scoot down to Dorset for this play. So I'll have to get vicarious pleasure from the reviews and the photo of Wilson, above. I never thought I'd want to see a Civil War drama ... till now. But perhaps some of you peeps can go and report back?

Yo, Brian! Coffee in Burlington? I'm buying.

The Whipping Man runs Wednesdays through Saturdays, and some Tuesdays, through July 20; matinees Saturdays and some Sundays, too. For more info and tickets, call 867-2223 or visit here.

Photo courtesy of Dorset Theatre Festival.

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