Richard Wesley Essay - Critical Essays

Wesley, Richard

Wesley, Richard 1945–

Wesley is a Black American playwright. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 57-60.)

"The Past Is the Past" and "Going Thru Changes"… are two remarkable one-acters by the remarkable black dramatist Richard Wesley…. One feat, among many, of Richard Wesley's is that he manages to get in all the essential exposition without ever breaking the mood or the conversational tone of ["The Past Is the Past"] or dulling its wit. The play is entirely about feelings, and it is written with a combination of strength and delicacy and craftsmanship that adds up to perfection. Indeed, it may become a classic on a tremendous theme—recognition between father and son and their acceptance of one another—but only time can tell that. (p. 69)

Edith Oliver, in The New Yorker (© 1974 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), January 28, 1974.

In The Sirens,… Richard Wesley creates some unforgettable, haunting characters—universally familiar in their needs, undeniably representative of their culture, and yet uniquely individual…. But at the same time, Mr. Wesley gives the impression of having worked from an outline which demands that certain intellectual points be made, regardless of their dramatic appropriateness. Consequently, the structure of the piece becomes an episodic one in which each scene can be neatly summed up according to its specific lesson, and long, obvious monologues are predictably assigned to each character….

The characters in The Sirens seem to cry out to be put into a cohesive story—one with the dramatic impact which Mr. Wesley is capable of writing. (p. 6)

Debbi Wasserman, in Show Business (reprinted by permission of Show Business), May 23, 1974.

[The Past Is the Past is] a simple but thoughtfully suggestive one-act play….

On the surface it is only an anecdote. A solitary black comes into an empty poolroom, plays with its various gadgets, till a much younger man enters. They eye each other strangely, casually begin to question each other, engage in a game of billiards. Soon we discover that they recognize each other as a father and son who have had scarcely any contact before. The youth is the illegitimate offspring of the older man's vagrant life…. The father has virtually forgotten the son.

The father … belongs to a truant generation suffering extreme deprivation and lack of sure purpose. Though he now understands the mistakes of his former way of life, he does not believe he can at present be helpful to his son, nor does he encourage the boy to look forward to any future commitment from him. What is implied here is that the black man of tomorrow must forge his way along a different path than that of the haplessly confused and perforce anarchic big city black of former days. "The past is the past." Yet, without recrimination there is a fiber of understanding between the two. The dialogue is quietly laconic, understated and always to the point. (p. 605)

Harold Clurman, in The Nation (copyright 1975 by the Nation Associates, Inc.), May 17, 1975.