Review by David Walters
If you fully come to this play, and by fully I mean with your body and mind to wade in the water of it, do take the time prior to read the short essay in the program by the playwright Dave Harris. It will give you insight and help you understand the depth, and the from-where-cometh-thou of what you are about to join. Here it is if you want to read it before: HERE
I’m asking you to take this bit of a preamble even though it goes against my grain as I ultimately feel that a play should not have to be explained prior to the curtain going up and I generally never read the program, but this is a special case and will enrich your experience and allow you to hear deeper nuances of what Mr. Harris is talking about. What you will get is clarity to the war within that the playwright is wrestling with and using this play as an expression of that battle.
There is nothing real about this play, and for a very good reason. “It ain’t fake if I believe in it,” the playwright says early on in the play and spends the rest of the 88 minutes trying to believe really hard in something, but ultimately coming to an understanding that, either real or fake, happiness, safety, money, it’s all an illusion.
Even before the red curtain opens the announcement giving the mostly white audience of whomever can afford to be there instruction and permission to shout-out, laugh, clap, and participate in what they’re about to see, to join in on the fabulous falseness of theater with real live interaction, sets the tone for what’s expected of you for the evening. It’s fake, but we’re going to be in the fake together and maybe find something true on that fake journey, somewhere. The characters (playwright) want you to be fully part of the show as only then can they cash in on the currency that only a live audience can give (and I’m not just talking throwing quarters). Like his two main characters, Mr. Harris battles between the successes of this world and where they can be found, in the taking or in the giving, and where true self lies in there. In a way, it’s part of the Pinocchio journey, a search for real self and the conviction to be able to say that, “I’m a real person,” and be accepted for that. But defining that word “real” is so elusive, as in our society it has so many individual meanings.
What you will see when the curtain does go up is a play in three acts: fake Dixie whistling minstrel players (W. Tre’ Davis and Tyler Fauntleroy, both wonderfully empathetic actors), a fake rap concert, and a fake dystopian society in the year 2376.
By using the word “fake” I don’t mean poorly done, all are excellently done. I mean it in the sense of real fake, purposely conceived for cause. The artifice of theater lends itself beautifully to this undertaking and one of the reasons that this is a good play, in my opinion, is that it couldn’t be anything else.
Though not perfect, the play is very creative, entertaining, thought-provoking, emotion-stirring, well worth seeing, but most importantly well worth listening to. As you can see by my rating, I liked it and I also urge you to go as well.
I’ve concentrated in this review more on the playwright’s journey as opposed to telling you what happens on the stage because that is the true meat on the bone here. His inner dueling consciousness of what he is sharing with us will be your takeaway. As he says through the character Bones at the end, “I know what I just did.”
Hint: if you’re in one of the first two rows and they say, “T-shirt cannon,” raise your hand and give a loud and fast shout-out.
Tambo and Bones Written by: Dave Harris and directed by Taylor Reynolds
The cast also includes the actors Brendan Dalton and Dean Linnard in scene-stealing robotic roles.
The creative team includes Stephanie Osin Cohen (Scenic Design), Dominique Fawy Hill (Costume Design), Amith Chandrashaker and Mextly Couzin (Lighting Design), Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design), and Justin Ellington (Original Music)
Now through February 27, 2022 at Playwrights Horizon in a co-production with the Center Theater Group.
Get your tickets HERE