Friday, July 12, 2019


Theatre for a New Audience
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
July 11, 2019

Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize winning Fairview turns the table on the audience in order to give them a different perspective on race in this country.  Director Sarah Benson and Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly collaborate with skillful precision, layering this amazing production with meticulous detail that creates a profound effect.  In true Brechtian style, the audience is encouraged to questions their percepton and see the familiar through a different perspective.  Going a step further, the audience is drawn into becoming an active participant, gaining an understanding of the clear and profound message of the playwright.

Charles Browning, Heather Alicia Simms, & Roslyn Ruff
Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
At first we watch the story of a wealthy, suburban black family as they prepare for the birthday celebration of their matriarch.  Beverly (played by Heather Alicia Simms), is nervously preparing the dinner.  Her husband, Dayton (played by Charles Browning), teases and supports her, while pretending to have forgotten to pick up the root vegetables needed for the dinner.  In comes Beverly’s high maintenance and gossipy sister, Jasmine (played by Roslyn Ruff), pushing buttons and raising Beverly’s stress level.  Beverly and Dayton’s teenage daughter, Keisha (played by Mayaa Boateng), returns from her basketball practice and asks her Aunt Jasmine to help her convince her mother to allow her to take a year off before starting college.  Amid the hectic craze, the lights focus in on Keisha for a serious, pensive moment.  The stress of the evening is all too much for Beverly.  She faints from the overstimulation.

Mayaa Boateng as Keisha
Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
During the next section of the play we hear a discussion on race.  The question is asked, “If you could choose, which race would you be born into?”  While this voice-over dialogue is being heard, the previous scene reruns silently.  The precise timing allows for a different insight into the characters we thought we knew.  Our observations are filtered through the dialogue being heard.

The third section of the play is wildly absurd, yet the playwright remains in complete control of the voices and images that make her audience question their individual perception.  The full cast brilliantly leads an unsuspecting audience to a complete and brutal reversal of reality.  None of this would be possible if not for the total trust you place in the character of Keisha.  Ms. Boateng is truthful, warm, and endearing in this monumental role.

Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury
Photo courtesy of Berkeley Rep
Soho Rep’s Fairview is playing downtown Brooklyn at Theatre for a New Audience through August 11.  There are no words that can explain the impact of this production.  It boldly takes the concept of Brecht’s “epic theatre” forward into the 21st century.  You need to be there yourself to fully experience, understand, and be a part of its impact.

Domenick Danza

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