Monday, December 13, 2021

Weekly Margin 2021, W50: Cullud Wattah, Freestyle Love Supreme, Sympathetic Magic, The Gift of the Magi, Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord

12/07/21: Cullud Wattah
What: The Public Theater presents a new play by Erika Dickerson-Despenza about the Cooper family: three generations of Black women in the second year of Flint, Michigan's still-ongoing water crisis.
And? In 1985 (and again in 2004) The Public presented Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, about the very early days of the AIDS crisis (taking place before it was even called AIDS) in New York. In both productions the walls of the theater were covered in statistics about the crisis, highlighting the ways in which both the media and the government were complicit in ignoring and even exacerbating the crisis. Now in 2021, Adam Rigg's scenic design for Cullud Wattah, a play tracking the early days of Flint's water crisis, that tradition continues: the walls of the Martinson are covered in tally marks, counting the days Flint, Michigan has been without clean water. And hanging from the rafters surrounding the performance space, as well as lining the floors of the Cooper house, are bottle after bottle filled with toxic brown water. This evidence, equally as damning of systemic complicity, frames Dickerson-Despenza's extraordinary play, just as the opening invocation of the spiritual "Wade in the Water"--here rewritten to be "Lead in the water, Snyder's playing God with the water"--reminds us of Black people's troubled history with water and how this crisis is one more act of violence from this country against them, as Black communities have been the ones most affected by this travesty. The play also shows clear ancestral roots in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, about the Younger family, their ambitions, and the pride of owning their own property. In this play, the Cooper's family home has lost nearly all its value due to the crisis, and its characters must reckon with their own deferred dreams: Big Ma's lost love, a love she was not safe to pursue in her youth; Ainee, a year sober from her personal poisons but now subject to Flint's toxins, finally carrying a viable pregnancy after six miscarriages; Marion, offered a promotion that could give her family the financial stability they so desperately lack, from GM, the very company that has been complicit in the tainted water supply; and Marion's children Plum and Reesee, trying to balance their hope for a future of clean water and choices, against the despair of the permanent damage the crisis has already inflicted on their bodies--Reesee with her blistering skin and Plum with her leukemia. This play is infuriating. This play is devastating. This play is filled to the brim with love. This play is so many things to be reckoned with.

Andrea Patterson, Lizan Mitchell, Alicia Pilgrim, Lauren F. Walker, and
Crystal Dickinson as Ainee, Big Ma, Plum, Reesee, and Marion.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

What: The Broadway engagement of the hip hop improv group founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson, Thomas Kail, Arthur Lewis, Bill Sherman, Chris Sullivan, and Anthony Veneziale.
And? Both Sullivan and conceiver fVeneziale are still a part of of FSL's Broadway run (under the performer names Shockwave and Two Touch) and truly excellent, along with Tarik Davis (aka Tardis Hardaway) and musicians Kurt Crowley (aka The Lord and Lady Crowley) and Victoria Theodore, making her Broadway debut. Each performance also has an unannounced guest on microphone three, and the one for my performance was the delightful and powerful Tony winner, James Monroe Iglehart (aka J-Soul). This was a fun night, featuring a second chance at an unfortunate mushroom encounter, a love song to latkes and inner strength, and a musical day in the life of running a teacher training.

(Note: not the performers I saw) Chris Sullivan, Wayne Brady, Anthony
Veneziale, and Aneesa Folds. Photo by Joan Marcus.

What: Open Circle Play Factory's part two of their Lanford Wilson Project, producing his play about ... actually, what it is about? I like the play but I don't know how to boil the plot down to a sentence.
And? Sigh. I was so excited to finally see a play I'd only read, by one of my favorite playwrights, and I just found it exhausting. The two central characters in this ensemble, Andy and Barbara, as played by Mitch Lerner and Taylor Lynn Carter, spent most of their scenes yelling their lines and not listening to their scene partners, jumping on their cues and not engaging. A lot of the pacing seemed designed to facilitate this style, with barely any air in the play until the scene with Mickey in the lab--Alexander Spears knows how to take a breath, how to let his character think, how to allow for stillness and quiet and not be afraid of it. But when most of the emotional weight in a production is carried by two players who don't seem inclined to participate emotionally, there's not much to say when the show is over. It's too bad.

Alexander Spears, Taylor Lynn Carter, and Matthew
Bechtold as Mickey, Barbara, and Don.
Photo by Maria Baranova.

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

No comments:

Post a Comment