By Betsyann Faiella
Misty at The Shed is a dynamic work and the brainchild of the uber-charismatic and talented Arinzé Kene, a Londoner and a two-time Olivier Award nominee for Misty. Kene combines an immense talent for lyrics, spoken word and rhyming, physical prowess (and beauty), and humor to present a piece with several themes, among them gentrification in East London and his place in the world of theater as a black person. The sets and lighting are masterful and provide opportunities for projections, strong shadow effects, and areas for staging additional and imagined characters. The superb production design in general was a favorite aspect of the show for me.
One of the questions Kene expresses through his poetry is: does he write what he wants or is it a losing battle because he is defined by identity politics. Identity politics is the zeitgeist stuff. Bemoaning gentrification seems to be tilting at windmills at this point in the century, but perhaps I am just a jaded New Yorker who saw Harlem’s gentrification picking up serious speed in the 1990s. I believe this is a flaw in the show, along with some over-indulgence in cleverness on the part of Kene. Kene is incredibly gifted, but some of his humorous antics overshadow the material.
There are several other creatives on stage: Liam Goodwin who briefly plays the character Raymond, is also co-music director, and Nadine Lee, a singer, percussionist and co-music director, who briefly plays Donna. These two musicians are elegant and their music, presence, and talents add much to the production. The Little Girl was played by Braxton Paul the night I attended, and is adorable and funny.
This is a marvelous piece of contemporary theater if you are adventurous. Trigger warnings are: very loud music (pre-show only) and enough utterances of the “n” word to make me rather uncomfortable, especially because I got used to it.
Misty – Written by Arinzé Kene; Directed by Omar Elarian
With: Arinzé Kene, (Writer, Performer and Composer) Liam Goodwin (Musician/Raymond), Nadine Lee (Musician/Donna), Ifeoluwa Adeniyi (Little Girl), Braxton Paul (Little Girl)
Original composition: Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod; Dramaturg: Jesse Cameron Alick; SPFX Designer: Jeremy Chernick; Movement Director: Rachael Nanyonjo; Set and Costume Design: Rajha Shakiry; Lighting Design: Jackie Shemesh; Sound Design: Elena Peña; Video Design: Daniel Denton; Production Stage Manager: Rachel A. Zucker; Assistant Stage Manager: Madison Tarchala; Production Consultant: Rike Berg.
Artistic Director of The Shed: Alex Poots.