BWW Review: UNDERGROUND a Taut Psychological Political Thriller

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UNDERGROUND, a taut new psychological and political thriller by Lisa B. Thompson, is currently in its World Premiere production at The VORTEX. UNDERGROUND examines African American activists, artists, and intellectuals and how they have responded from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond. The play takes a head-on look at where we are in the long fight for equality in our current political climate and what survival may look like over the next four years and beyond. This is an unflinching look at the possible aftermath of the appointment of white supremacists to high-ranking positions in the executive branch. This two person drama is set in the very near future and flashes back to their first encounter. At the core, UNDERGROUND asks the question: how far would you go to protect your people?

Kyle (Marc Pouhé) and Mason (Jeffrey Da'Shade Johnson) are two old college friends who have gone from young radicals to successful professionals and are now approaching middle age. When Kyle inexplicably shows up at Mason's door, seeking refuge, the men take the opportunity to catch up, reminisce and, as the night goes on, they engage, over drinks, in a battle of intellects and philosophies about the best future path for black liberation.The argument escalates, increasing in passion and becoming ever more personal. When a news report suddenly reveals a police search for the leader of a black radical political movement, their ethical crossroad leads them to one final game of chess and a wager that will change their lives forever.

Lisa B. Thompson's script is beautifully written and plotted with a steady build to an exciting climax. The dialogue crackles with the clever and exciting verbal dance of intellect. There are some things that are not all nicely tied up at the end, but they add intrigue and mystery to the script. UNDERGROUND has a powerful message that couldn't be more timely and relevant. Rudy Ramirez does his usual stellar job with the script, infusing the proceedings with subtle clues and hints that builds the evening to an electrifying chess game climax. Ann Marie Gordon has created a striking recreation of a Brownstone that is lit by the smart Noir lighting design of Patrick Anthony.

UNDERGROUND is enriched by the performances of Marc Pouhé and Jeffrey Da'Shade Johnson who clearly have a chemistry that makes this show crackle with an electric tension. Both men present layered and nuanced performances full of subtle character tics and body language that gives depth to this smart and intelligent dialogue. Watching these two actors, at the top of their games, is exciting and memorable theatre.

UNDERGROUND is an exhilarating mental and intellectual dance that presents important things we all should be considering, especially now. Highest recommendation for a stimulating evening of theatre.

UNDERGROUND by Lisa B. Thompson

Running time: Approximately Two Hours including intermission

UNDERGROUND, produced by The Vortex (2307 Manor Road, Austin, TX, 78722)
March 25 - April 8
Thursdays - Sundays 8 pm

Wednesday, March 29, a benefit for Austin ScriptWorks Finer Point Fund.

"Industry Nights" Wednesdays, March 29 and April 5 at 8pm

Live Streaming, March 31 at 8pm CST on

ASL-Interpreted Saturday, April 1 (Free to deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences)

Visit for tickets: Tickets: $35-$15

$35 Priority Seating

$25 General Admission

$15 Discount/Child/Artist/Student/Senior

Talk Back Dates and Speakers:
March 30th- Sharice Smith, Director of the Warfield Center
March 31st- Counter Balance: ATX- Fatima Mann
April 1st- Black Pflugerville- Meme Styles
April 7th- Dr Lisa Thompson and Isaiah Wooden, PhD (American University, D.C.).

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From This Author Frank Benge