Last night, I saw a preview performance of The Good Negro at the Dallas Theater Center. It's hard to quantify all the reasons you need to see this play - and I'll probably ramble as I try to explain just why it's important. In an election season where race is the elephant in the room that has been alternately consciously ignored or tacitly and subtly brought up as a sharp-edged instrument, you'd have to be living under a rock to not draw parallels to today. From the characters declaring that "They're just waiting for us to ---- up," to a minister's impassioned reasoning that "we're not asking for extra rights, just the same rights as everyone else" - you realize, not even a quarter of the way through the play, that things haven't changed all that much in 40 years. The play takes place in Birmingham, Ala., as the civil rights movement begins to take shape. You see a Martin Luther King Jr.-type character in Rev. Jimmy Lawrence, and his two compatriots - Rutherford and Henry - struggle amongst themselves with their own weaknesses as they're besieged by the FBI and the KKK. For Lawrence, it's the temptation of infidelity. For Rutherford, it's arrogance. For Henry, it's ego and self-importance. And swirling around them are people just waiting for them to mess up. The set design at times makes, for instance, the FBI's intrusiveness into the lives of those in "The Movement" a symbolic, ethereal thing, but a palpable event with the agents seemingly in the room as the planning goes on, looking silently on. Of course, a tragedy brings Lawrence to doubt his work in Birmingham. He prepares to leave and go to Florida - "just for a little while, we'll be back," he promises the incensed Rutherford, but is begged by a seemingly unlikely source to stay and fight. So this play isn't just a discourse in history - it's a jumping off point for discussing race in America now, and the subtle ways it still plays out today. If time had permitted, I would've loved to stay an extra 20 minutes after the play for the post show audience discussion with DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Managing director Mark Hadley came out before the performance to explain that this performance was only the second time the world had seen this show - the first being the night before. It will eventually go to New York. By the way, the post show audience discussion is a new concept from the DTC - one I hope they continue.