Even in this era of tell-all memoirs and talk show confessionals, we wonder who the real person is under a manufactured persona powered by practiced sound bites.
You yearn to hang with them in a bar away from spotlights and discover what they really think about who they are, what haunts them and sustains them.
Terry Teachout’s maiden play Satchmo at the Waldorf comes close to allowing that communion with the unvarnished, uncensored and complex human being beneath the sunny, grinning creation that the world adored as “Louie” Armstrong.
Barry Shabaka Henley’s appealing performance at Palm Beach Dramaworks as the proud, genial, troubled Louis (not Louie) quietly seduces the audience without any histrionics until late in the play. It’s as if Armstrong is sharing reveries with a new friend visiting backstage.
The 2013-14 play catches the 69-year-old Armstrong in his dressing room directly after what may be his last performance in 1971. Seriously ill, he warms to entertaining with time-shifting stories that document the evolution of pop music and its intersection with race relations from the 1920s through early 1970s.