BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Fascinating Production of EMERGENCY
St. Louis is home to dozens of theatre companies, most of which have the same problem; finding a venue in which to perform. The Black Rep, which utilized the Grandel Theatre for many years, is now faced with this same issue. But, thankfully, they were able to find space at Washington University, using the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre for their latest presentation, playwright Danel Beaty's one-man show, Emergency. For this particular show they've found a perfect fit. In fact, this must-see performance from actor Ron Conner is required viewing.
Beaty's play tells an unusual story about the sudden appearance of a slave ship near Liberty Island, and how it impacts the community. Most of this fanciful and fascinating story takes place there, but some of it also takes place at the Apollo Theatre where the search for "America's Next Poet" is being broadcast. Rodney, a participant, is preparing for his shot at winning the contest when he's made aware that his father has somehow swam out to the slave ship and boarded it. For those who would prefer to avoid the issue of slavery, the ship acts as a bold reminder that we should never forget where we came from.
Ron Conner does exceptional work here taking on the persona's of a wide variety of characters of both sexes. He's the reporter who's on the scene when the ship appears, but he's also all the "slave-ologists" who offer their opinion on why this ship has suddenly appeared. He also undertakes the role of Sharita, the narcissistic host of "America's Next Poet", as well as other contestants who are vying for the prize. Each character is distinct and defined, with Conner deftly offering up voices and mannerisms that fit each person we encounter. For seventy-five minutes Conner holds our attention and makes this story come to life.
Ron Himes does fine work directing this show, eliciting an excellent performance from his sole actor, and keeping the action moving at a brisk pace without losing focus. Eric Cope contributes the lighting scheme, Robin Weatherall adds a fitting sound design, and Lakysha Williams handles the projection designs with aplomb.
The Black Rep's presentation of Emergency is very well done and deserving of your time and attention. The show continues through September 15, 2013.