BWW Review: Relevant Topic Probed in STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT at Convergence Continuum
Apartheidwas a political and social system in South Africa that existed from enacted in 1948 and lasted until 1994, when a new constitution was ratified which abolished segregation. Apartheid was used to deny many basic rights to non-White people, mainly Blacks.
The law allowed white people to be in most areas of the country. Black people, on the other hand, had to carry special passes or have permission to travel outside their designated region. Laws outlawed interracial marriage, use of public facilities such as libraries, as well as forbidding of socializing of Blacks and whites.
Many works of literature and drama have been written about this period in South African history. Probably no dramatist was more noted for his stand against apartheid than white South African Harold Athol Fugard.
His writing followed the form of Bertolt Brecht who not only wrote about social situations, but encouraged audiences to act rather than merely watch the play.
Fugard became an international spokesperson by writing works which were penetrating and pessimistic of South African society. His "Blood Knot" dealt with brothers who fall on opposite sides of the racial color line. Other noted award winning works were "Boesman and Lena," "Master Herold and the Boys," "My Life," and "The Coat."
"Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act," which is now in production at convergence-continuum, under the direction of Terrence Spivey, is noted as a lessor of the author's writings, and follows the form of "derived imaginative in a shapeless drama," which does not follow a chronological format.
On the surface, "Statements," is the tale of a forbidden sexual relations between a white female librarian and a black man.
He comes to the library, from which he cannot take out or use the books he needs for his educational research. They develop a relationship as she finds material for him. The connection blossoms into an intimate affair.
The lovers (white Freida and Black Philanderer) are discovered, arrested, and tried. Her testimony, plus pictures of the affair, tell the tale.
The understanding of the depth of the story depends on the audience being able to read into the actions and spoken lines the implications of both apartheid and human feelings. Feelings which go beyond skin color.
The talky script is not well written. The lines tend to be speeches and rants, rather than narrative conversations. Repetition permeates.
The clarity of what drives Philanderer to contemplate leaving his wife and child is not made clear, especially considering that there is no place for the white-black duo to exist in the South African system of regulations.
The lonely, seemingly friendless Frieda's need for some type of relationship is much easier to pinpoint.
Con-con's production ranges from static to frantic. Part of this is a writing issue, the rest is the director's staging, pacing and line interpretation decisions.
Both Freida Joubert (Jill Kenderes) and Errol Philanderer (Corin Self) proficiently develop their characters and seem confident performing most of the play while nude.
On the other hand, Soren Russell screams and over-acts as Policeman-Detective Seargent. His is an over-blown characterization, not the creation of a believable person. This is out of context as it adds a farcical component to a horrific realistic situation.
Errant lighting issues on opening night caused problems, but these should work out as the crew becomes more familiar with the cues.
Capsule Judgment: With the recent election of a new President of South Africa, resulting in a probe of the economic and social status of blacks in that country, con-con's play choice is relevant. Informing of the horrors of apartheid, which seem to parallel the desires of some of US citizens, also makes the topic germane. Unfortunately, the quality of the script and some of the directorial decisions leave the audience wanting.
"Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act" runs through June 15, 2019 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum's artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to http://www.convergence-continuum.org/
Next up at con-con: "Tom at the Farm" (July 12-August 3, 2019) -- After the sudden death of his lover, Tom travels to a remote farm community for the funeral, and finds a religious family who knows nothing of his existence. Tom is threatened by the deceased's brother and is drawn into a brutal, sexually-charged game.