I looked up “Gothic” in a couple of dictionaries and found among the variable definitions this: “of or relating to a style of writing that describes strange or frightening events that take place in mysterious places.” Perfect. Bronx Gothic is aptly named. It is a one-woman show performed by its writer, Okwui Okpokwasili. The writing is a memoir of strange and frightening events that took place in the Bronx and within the complex lives of two girls on the verge of becoming teen-agers. The show is electrified with raw truth and extreme pushing against the traditional theatrical arts. I am a big fan of true stories. Not the glossy widely marketable ones suitable for all demographics, but the gritty stories that are deeply personal confessions so ugly that they become beautiful. Okpokwasili tells this kind of autobiographical story fearlessly. The show begins before the audience sits down. The environment is evocative of an East Village apartment living room in the ‘90’s decorated by someone just out of college and then magnified to a fantastical size without losing intimacy. There are cushions on the floor around the performance area. The light is soft like the music, which is hypnotic in its rhythm. And in one corner of the space is Okpokwasili with her back to us and every muscle in her body is seemingly on fire. She is nearly six...Read More
Author: Margret Echeverria
AN AMERICAN FAMILY TAKES A LOVER – What we have here is a piece of experimental theatre placed on fertile ground by enthusiastic artists who will love it through all pains of growth. Assumed enthusiasm is evidenced by a willingness to work with a gross lack of budget. As is often the challenge of a collaborative piece by excited contributors, the group can be inundated with a lot of brilliant ideas about how the final product should look and feel. That challenge burns bright with this show; so bright that the viewer might be blinded to the genius which also exists here. Amina Henry, the author of this play, is a good writer possessing a flexible mind and an urge to push boundaries. As her story pulls further and further out from its central themes, a lot of light is cast on many clever ideas pressing for equal time in the minds of the observers. There’s a lot Henry wants to say about race, class, breakdowns in relationships, the limits of modern society on our happiness, self-imposed and other-imposed bondage, the audacity of hope . . . fascinating stuff. I found myself overwhelmed. I wanted to reach over to Henry, sitting a few seats away, and ask her if she fears she may have a very short time here on this planet. Could this be why she wanted to...Read More
You know how you felt about that kid you grew up with? You know the one. He was the son of ridiculously successful parents and given every opportunity to enjoy and succeed in his blessed life. But rather than take full advantage of what he was given and the head start he had on his future and fortune, he got really lazy, smoked a lot of pot and blamed everyone in his life but himself for his unhappiness. Yeah. The way you feel about that guy is how I feel about this production. Beth Henley, THE JACKSONIAN’s author, was born in Jackson, Mississippi, where this play takes place. She went to Southern Methodist University. She is steeped in Sweet Tea laced with Tupelo Honey. Beth Henley has a love affair with language that is unique to the Southern United States and borders on Shakespearian in its passion. The lines she gives her characters are nuggets of gold. Her story-telling is wrought with intrigue and wrapped in clever humor brought about by lovely turns of phrase that warm the listener and give attention-holding insight into the character who is speaking. To my utter dismay this production killed the gift that Beth Henley gave it. (There was a terrible chemical odor in the theatre to magnify all other offenses.) God bless this cast, some of whom have proven themselves to be...Read More
BY MARGRET ECHEVERRIA It is a dangerous endeavor to present a dramatization of history to a New York City audience that will surely be comprised of intellects and cynics – especially when the history presented is somewhat familiar and a frequently favorite story among dramatic storytellers. What a thrill it was to be in the presence of a genius collaboration of writer, director and cast and witness this production which deftly surmounts all risk and draws one in from its very first moment. Marie Antoinette is often sold as a vapid creature incapable of preventing her eventual slaughter. ...Read More
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