BWW Review: DARIUS & TWIG Sprints to the Finish Line
I am going to dash to the point. There are two aspects of DARIUS & TWIG, a world premiere play at the Kennedy Center, that are just really cool. First, because it is a part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival, the piece was written by a woman, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, and directed by a woman, Eleanor Holdridge. Second, the show is presented as part of the Kennedy Center's education program Theater for Young Audiences. What makes this show unique however is the topic addressed. It is relevant and significant in American society and it is important to expose these issues to audiences of all ages.
DARIUS & TWIG is about two best friends getting through their senior year of high school in Harlem, New York. Darius, played by Justin Weaks, has to deal with his father who abandoned his family and an alcoholic mother who can barely make ends meet. Darius, however, is a gifted writer who wants his article published in a magazine. Twig, played by Christopher Wilson, is a track star, but his uncle wants him to quit running and help run the bodega. The duo supports each other through the difficulties with family and through the animosity of jealous peers.
Not only do Jennings and Holdridge do a beautiful job bringing this story to life, there are so many pure theatrical moments in this play. I love the integration of hip hop into Darius's dialogue. It creates music without instruments and adds to the feelings of hope and stress. Moreover, the scenes where we would see Twig running in a competition, made me feel like I was watching a real race. The decision to create a stop-motion effect of the actors created the tension and excitement that was needed.
Perhaps most importantly, I love that this is a story of two characters who rise against the odds of being from a
poor neighborhood, but it is not just a story of ease. Jennings and Holdridge illustrate how difficult it really is. It gives younger audiences some context to stories heard in the media and how every situation is more complicated than it seems.
That said, the show did have a few shortcomings. There was a theme of gun control and gun violence that got started, but did not thread through the end of the piece. Also, I had trouble with the bird metaphors and Darius' alter falcon ego of Fury. I needed more than Weaks just flapping his arms around like a bird. I understood the idea behind Fury, but I had trouble understanding where it actually came from.
Aside from this, the show was very well done. The actors had a strong comradery and understanding of space. It was so much fun to see Weaks and Wilson on stage together. I also loved seeing the creativity from Manu Kumasi and Latia Stokes. Combined they played 13 different characters and made each character distinct and interesting.
For a night of humor, intensity, and a slice of real American life, DARIUS & TWIG is worth bringing your family to.
DARIUS & TWIG runs at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater through November 8. It is approximately one hour without an intermission. For more information and tickets visit the Kennedy Center's website or call (202) 467-4600.