(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Time, 9/26; via Pam Green.)

Our “safe word” for today is “Sojourner.”

Those three syllables are the gift of Teacher Stuart and Teacher Caroline to their fifth-grade students in Hanover, Pa., to be used in moments of distress during an especially adventurous history project. “Sojourner,” boys and girls, is what you say when you find yourself way outside your comfort zone and need to take a break.

It’s a fairly, uh, safe bet that you will find yourself tempted to cry “Sojourner” on many occasions before the end of “Underground Railroad Game,” the in-all-ways sensational play that opened on Monday night at Ars Nova. Just don’t expect anyone to have mercy on you.

As you may have gathered from its title and its safe word (which refers to the 19th-century African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth), “Underground Railroad Game” is about slavery. More specifically, this lacerating comedy from the Lightning Rod Special troupe in Philadelphia is about finding ways to speak to one another about an unspeakable American institution a century and a half after its official end.


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