I had no idea what The Fortress of Solitude was about when my friend told me she had an extra ticket. I read that it was based on a book and Adam Chanler-Berat and Rebecca Naomi Jones were in it. So I told her I was in. I asked her if it was 90-minutes-no-intermission (#nmni) and she laughed and said, “oh no, this is a full two hours and forty five minutes.” I made sure to have an espresso milkshake from Momofuku beforehand.
It was about two boys, Mingus and Dyland, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn in the 70’s when it was still called Gowanus. Both lived with their fathers and were abandoned by their mothers. One black (Mingus), one white (Dylan), they seem to be on a good path until Dylan is accepted to Stuyvesant High School and Mingus is left on his own to attend public school in Gowanus. We see the incredibly different lives they lead and after high school Dylan runs away to UC Berkeley because that’s where his mother left him to go. He makes a career for himself as a music critic there.
A major aspect in both of their lives is soul music: for Dylan, it’s the music on the records his mother leaves behind and for Mingus, it’s the music that his father was previously famous for. Dylan’s mother leaves behind her wedding ring which acts as a magnet bringing the boys together, and eventually resulting in their final fight as adults.
The largely ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. Allison Whitehurst deserves special recognition for dancing in roller skates. And David Rossmer didn’t let his bandaged arm and hand in a cast bring him down (he apparently sliced the tip of one of his fingers recently), he was hilarious. Rebecca Naomi Jones did a great job with her two roles; I particular enjoyed her rage in act two. Kevin Mambo, as Mingus’ father, was and is always great. Chanler-Berat was fantastic, as per usual, easily conveying the range of emotions that his character goes through. Kyle Beltran as Mingus was the other standout. His character development and decay was perfect.
The show is long – especially the first act. But if they shave twenty minutes off the first act, The Public has another Fun Home on their hands for sure.