By Holli Harms
Our bodies carry memory. They hold what our minds cannot or do not want to hold. Do our bodies hold the history of our race, of what has happened to us decade after decade? In Zora Howard’s new play HANG TIME, she writes of the bodies of black men and how those bodies carry the violence that has been done to them generation after generation. She writes of the strange fruit that hung from innocent trees all over this country.
You enter by way of the stage, where three men, Bird, (Dion Graham), Slim, (Akron Watson), and Blood (Cecil Blutcher) hang on a high round hydraulic stage, much like the trunk of a tree. They hang there as if by magic. They hang in a space of purgatory. It is a startling and stunning tableau.
The men wake from their deaths again and again and speak of struggles, of the small details of lives lived and lost. These are men who have never stopped searching for personal integrity and identity. They repeat thoughts, forget ideas, and remember love and lust and want and desire and anger. They fight one another and themselves not with fists but with words, simple words, harsh words, day-to-day words, and all these words carry with them poetry and purpose. They are men, everyday men, ordinary men, reliving and reliving and reliving.
It is an absolutely heart-wrenching and hauntingly beautiful experience. The moments of silence are as moving and poignant as the moments filled with voice. Howard in her directorial debut allows these astonishing performers the freedom to follow their instincts and breath into their performances with depth and humor while suspended, the slightest movement saying so much.
Reza Behjat’s lighting is integral to the movement. It is sublime. As is Neal Wilkinson’s scene design. Collaboration, of all the elements that go into creating a theatrical experience, has been laid with pinpoint precision.
You will leave changed, moved, and lifted.
Not to be missed.
HANG TIME, written and directed by Zora Howard
With: Akron Watson as ‘Slim,’ Cecil Blutcher as ‘Blood,’ and Dion Graham as ‘Bird.” Aaron Morton understudies the three roles.
Creative team Neal Wilkinson (Scenic Design), Reza Behjat (Lighting Design), Dominique Fawn Hill (Costume Design), Megan Culley (Sound Design), and Charlie Oates (Movement Direction).
The Flea 20 Thomas St, New York, NY 10007
Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission