BWW Review: AMERICA V. 2.1: THE SAD DEMISE & EVENTUAL EXTINCTION OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO at Barrington Stage Company Packs far more than a 1 - 2 Punch.
When the house lights came up at the end of the performance and the audience sat gob smacked, an overwhelming thought entered my head: sharing what I had just experienced was not going to be an easy task.
AMERICA V. 2.1: THE SAD DEMISE AND EVENTUAL EXTINCTION OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO presents a day in the life of a troupe of Black actors who are charged with re-enacting the revised history of the once-thriving American Negro. It quickly becomes a day of reckoning. A provocative, funny and dark look at Black Americans in post-apocalyptic America.
This bold, brave, important, timely, and highly relevant story is a cautionary tale. In the spirit of Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 it is set in a dystopian society but as Playwright Stacey Rose, who was awarded the grand prize in BSC's Bonnie & Terry Burman New Play Award for this piece, points out - in the "not too distant future". It has a lot to say.
Rose's work adeptly weaves together the play within the play and the interaction of the players. We are presented with a large volume of information in an amusing, entertaining, and highly effective way that makes us question whether historical facts, as we have come to know them, are indeed accurate or perhaps, the convenient truths that those with a power base would like us to accept without question. It shows how fragile the truths we hold to be self-evident are. How what some might do in the pursuit of happiness, might not be in the best interest of all involved. And, how that which we consider to be reality might be largely influenced by perspective and circumstance.
The cast comprised mostly of BSC newcomers features Ansa Akyea as "Donovan," Jordan Barrow as "Grant," Kalyne Coleman as "Leigh," Peterson Townsend as "Jeffrey" and Peggy Pharr Wilson (BSC's veteran) as "The Voice." Each is strong and superb in their performance, bringing and presenting a very real and very accurate portrayal of the varied perspectives of human emotion. Not surprisingly, some of the characters are steadfast while others evolve and change as the action and events unfold. The elements of both song and dance are key elements in the production that are both powerful and effective. Jordan Barrow's singing is particularly noteworthy.
With skillful direction by Logan Vaughn, in only about 90 minutes AMERICA VERSION 2.1 effectively explores major milestones in African American history ranging from slavery through the fight for civil rights into the present and (potentially) beyond.
The design team inclues: Jack Magaw (scenic design), Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene (costume design), Cha See (lighting design), Luqman Brown (sound design). Kevin Boseman is choreographer. Geoff Boronda is production stage manager.
If, in the face of recent events, you have uttered the phrase: Wait - WHAT?
If you have thought how can this be happening?
If you wonder how there can be "fine people on both sides"?
If you have asked how did, we get here?
If you find yourself pondering if this is what the founders had in mind?
If you think you are "woke"... You should see this play!
But do so quickly as performances of this World Premiere continue for one week only. Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm; Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 3:00pm - St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center (36 Linden Street). Tickets: $15-$50. Barrington Stage Box Office: 413- 236-8888 or online at www.barringtonstageco.org