Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Soul Siren Playhouse
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of The Mousetrap

Cameron Jamarr, Eileen Engel, and Jeremy Thomas
Photo by Zakary Littrell
If you happen to be a white person and ever feel like Black people are not being totally forthcoming with you on a deep, interpersonal level, Dutchman may tell you why. The lyrical, 1964 Obie Award winning play was written by Amiri Baraka and set on a subway car where flirtation on a transit bench slowly turns to murder. This may remind you a bit of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, which debuted in 1959, similarly set on a New York City park bench. But the underground train in Dutchman careens through deep, dark tunnels (real and metaphorical), filled with sexual energy and a poetic, racial angst which finally explode out into the open.

And though it only takes up about 55 minutes, at the former Way Out Club at Jefferson and Gravois Avenues in south St. Louis, the intricate story travels far and wide, under the cooperative direction of four people, including the two central cast members, Cameron Jamarr and Eileen Engel. Additional directorial credit goes to Bradford Lewis Rolen and Zahria Moore. And though I always think too many cooks spoil the plot, this show actually takes on a deep luster for having four directors.

There's a slight muddling of the timeline: Ms. Engel seems to have stepped right out of the decade of the hippies, and Mr. Jamarr carries a cell phone. But great vistas of Black doubt and fear and disappointment–and confidence, and rage, and self-determination–remain timeless, and surface with a poet's level of precision, defying the decades.

The theatrical venue is now known as the Greenfinch Theater & Dive, and the show itself is produced by Soul Siren Playhouse. A high level of self-assuredness in performance sweeps us along with the action. And then, when rhetoric and emotions get out of control, we are trapped on that subway car right along with the Black businessman and the white seductress.

It's described as an urban Adam and Eve story, and indeed Dutchman is filled with temptation and foreboding, with Mr. Jamarr wearing a suit and tie, and Ms. Engel a clinging vine of a flower child on a quiet cross-town train at night. She seems to know everything about him, which is unnerving, and perhaps even demonic. Or it may just make her a figment of his own imagination. Either way, he slowly warms to her entreaties.

There's a strange, riveting musicality to both of their performances. Ms. Engel's speech is like soft and taunting jazz, while Mr. Jamarr is reluctant, then romantic, till he grows frustrated–as if he finally hears a kind of be-bop drum solo in his head that rules a newfound rage in blank verse. The stage is littered with Eden-like apples she's bitten into and ruthlessly cast aside, along with the usual throwaway trash under the subway car benches. Not to mention the occasional drunk (the always excellent Jeremy Thomas).

And, as winning and affable as Mr. Jamarr is, a perfect "Twilight Zone" ending must still cap everything off, turning a certain kind of desire into a certain kind of racial trope, where the next stop is a certain kind of destruction.

Dutchman runs through February 18, 2024, at Soul Siren Playhouse, Greenfinch Theater & Dive, 2525 South Jefferson Avenue, St. Louis MO. For tickets and more information please visit

Clay: Cameron Jamarr
Lula: Eileen Engel
Drunk/Conductor: Jeremy Thomas
Young Man: Donald Kidd (Fridays and Saturdays)
Young Man: Deante Bryant (Wednesday, Thursdays, and Sunday)

Production Staff
Directors: Cameron Jamarr, Eileen Engel, Bradford Lewis Rolen, Zahria Moore
Set Designer: Bradford Lewis Rolen
Sound Designer/Wig Designer/Social Media: De'Janna Scales-Hand
Lighting Designer: Lenny Banks
Fight Captain: Cameron Jamarr
Stage Manager: Bradford Lewis Rolen
Dramaturgy/Educational Outreach: Zahria Moore