Playwright Matthew Lopez’s first work, The Whipping Man, has been sweeping regional and professional theaters since its debut. The play examines a vital, but not often spoken of period in American history, the post-Civil War South, as former slaves and slavemasters struggled to acclimate to the new emancipated social order. The play is set in Richmond, Virginia in April of 1865. The Confederacy has just surrendered and throughout the South, slaves are being freed and soldiers are returning home. Caleb DeLeon, grievously wounded and starving, returns to his family home in Richmond to discover an empty house. His mother and father have fled from the destruction of the war. Only Simon, the old family slave, remains. Simon is guarding and tending to the property as best he can while waiting for the return of his wife and daughter, also former slaves of the DeLeons. That same day, John, another former slave of the DeLeons’, also returns. He has been using the house as a cache for items he has looted from the surrounding abandoned homes. The three must navigate their new relationships while settling with demons from the past, culminating in a Passover Seder where former master and slaves must decide where honesty and loyalty will lie.
The Whipping Man guide sections