by Peter Marks
A good stage actor can immerse you in his imaginary world. An outstanding one makes you feel you’re the only other person in it. That higher-level mastery is achieved by Laurence Fishburne in “Thurgood,” the warmly satisfying one-man show based on the life of the first African American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fishburne portrayed the wily, irresistible Thurgood Marshall two years ago on Broadway and now, reprising the role for a three-week engagement in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, he forges an even deeper mind-meld with one of the crucial figures of 20th-century American history. George Stevens Jr.’s bio-play, solidly staged by Leonard Foglia, persuasively confirms for us Marshall’s pivotal contribution to the civil rights movement, as the victorious NAACP lawyer in the 1950s landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.
And in his embodiment of the proud, ambitious, restless Marshall, who took robustly to heart the idea that the law can be a powerful tool for social change, Fishburne cements a bond of astonishing intimacy with his audience. By the time he arrives at the end of the story, as an aged insider in one of the nation’s most revered institutions, the actor will have completed the task of confiding the details of Marshall’s life in a most entertainingly digestible way.