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Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective

Playwright, Alric Davis, begins a stellar journey in this production

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
LaBraska Washington as Dre
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

Where to begin to explain Alric Davis' semi-autobiographical play Bashful, and the Noize. Equal parts Michael R. Jackson's A Strange Loop, Pasek and Paul's Dear Evan Hansen, and Simon Stephens A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Davis' play is an amalgamation of storylines that are equal parts celebratory of black American life, but also is a play that needs some improvement. While I know this has been a 9 year journey for young Davis, this play has the guts to one day truly be outstanding. There is some polishing that can be done to have the play truly excel and eventually become as iconic and discussed as James Ijames Fat Ham, or Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Gloria.


Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Full company of Bashful and the Noize
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

First, the plot of Bashful. We find a young man in his teenage years who is actively choosing to be mute. Sebastian, or Bash (wonderfully played by Tadrian White) as his friends have nick-named him has gone mute due to some heavy trauma. The passing of his mother to a terminal illness, and a recent assault by a cousin have left poor Bash in a state of mental distress. Bash's attendance at Houston's HSPVA is also in accordance with his father, Milton (played exquisitely by Marvin J. Young), who is part of the janitorial staff of the prestigious high school. Bash's voluntary muteness leaves his father in distress and the two quite literally do not know how to communicate. Bash's queerness has Milton questioning how he can help his son. Meanwhile, HSPVA teacher, Dre (played exquisitely by Labraska Washington), is a witness to the distress of Milton and offers to help him translate being black and queer and find some common ground. While all this occurs, Bash communicates with outsiders by screaming when angry or disagreeable, and singing when in a happier situation. His thoughts, his actions, his everything is explained by James (played by Donte Wright) and Maya (played by Shelia Johnson) who act as the introspective of young Bash's thoughts and actions. Eventually, Milton and Dre's actions lead to a breakthrough with Bash speaking again and the result is a happy ending that sees the beginning of a beautiful journey for both father and son.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Donte Wright and Shelia Baker Johnson as James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, and Bryce Ivan as Jason
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

Now, I do not wish to admonish or critique this play without acknowledging again that Davis' work is commendable. As said, with some tweaking, edits, and potentially the help of a dramaturg Davis' work can improve significantly. The plot is slightly confusing and at least for myself left a weird afterglow on the subject matter of this play. Bash, especially as he is a teenager, comes off as a little spoiled and aggressive. Yes, there is extensive trauma, but it is hard to feel sorry for a teenager who finds joy in buying more expensive items. While the story implies the items are for his dad, Bash clearly doesn't have a problem spending his dad's meager earnings (and clearly talking with salespersons). Furthermore, Bash does make noises to express approval or disapproval, and as an audience member by the end of the play, his muteness can be felt as more of an annoyance rather than a processing tool for trauma. This is not to say that teenagers don't do this. I myself after many arguments folks over the usual teenage angst stayed quiet or didn't talk to them because I didn't get my way. However, Bash's continued silence and his thoughts expressing his emotions becomes more of a hindrance and extremely confusing rather than Bash being a sympathetic individual. Next is a confusing plot line regarding a cousin. At least in my viewing, I didn't quite understand that side of the story. Milton calls a former friend/family member of Bash's, named Jason. Jason has done some undue harm on Bash without Marvin's knowledge, and upon inviting Jason to rehabilitate Bash, Bash's pent up emotions explode in a weird magical way. There was no previous mention of any magical element in the play so this was bewildering. Furthermore, this cousin I felt was actually a friend who broke Bash's heart. Bash is unapologetically gay, and again, from my view, it seemed that Jason and Bash had struck up a secret relationship, only for Jason to later break Bash's heart. However, after the show, and discussing it with a few folks who had seen it, I corrected my viewing and learned that Jason had either let an assault happen on Bash or did a violent act upon his cousin. I personally wish it was a lot more clearer as to what exactly Jason did and why Bash's Dragonball Z, Super Saiyan moment, was garnered.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Tadrian White and Marvin J. Young as Bash and his father, Milton
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

Davis' play does a lot of telling but rarely does it show. However, what it does show is what makes the play have heart. Milton and Dre have some wonderful scenes together, and there is some quite beautiful humor and heart in those scenes. Nothing brings more joy than seeing a black father work so hard for his son and their relationship. Furthermore, it is wonderful to be shown how hard teachers and their ilk work for not only the happiness of their students but also of their families. Especially as contemporary culture wars provide negative outlooks on these individuals. Both Marvin J. Young and Labraska Washington are truly standouts and are given some of the best dialogue in a play. Washington delivers their character with the utmost respect and reverence. It was truly an honor to watch Washington deliver Davis' words and emotions. Another example of what makes this show great are the creations of Bash's thoughts in Bob and Sheila. Shelia Johnson and Donte Wright both have the incredibly difficult job of explaining Bash's young emotions. Their stellar performances should be applauded to the raptors. However, I personally wish they were their own characters and individuals that can help guide young Bash, rather than his thoughts. Their appearance as them is confusing and can do with some refining.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Tadrian White as Bash, embracing his inner BrightLight Warrior
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

Scenic and Lighting Design by Trey Morgan Lewis and Ty Frazier respectively, provide colofrul and electric backdrops to the character's emotions. The colorful and electric art that provides a backdrop for some of the more emotional scenes really added to the complex emotions audiences were seeing on stage.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Tadrian White as Bash, and Donte Wright as James Baldwin
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

I mentioned earlier that this play left me with a weird afterglow. While I fully expect this to eventually have a wider audience and be a constant on the national stage, there needs to be some tweaking. Bash needs to be a sympathetic character. Much like Jackson's A Strange Loop, Davis' Bash is black and gay. Davis needs to lean into this aspect more for there are so few stories of BIPOC and queerness. I almost felt like he downplays the gay aspect to make the story more family friendly and PG, however that is exactly what Davis should be leaning more into. Maybe this is myself projecting, however, Davis' story can grow so much more if his title character is allowed to be unapologetically himself. While there are glimpses that can be seen as stereotypical, these aspects are what make Bash, Bash. Davis already does an amazing job at allowing Dre being unapologetically black, show me more of that. Also, I would love to be shown, and not told as to why Bash is mute. There are some scenes such as the crying at a grave or the awkwardness with Jason, but instead of telling me why it's this way, show me.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Marvin J. Young as Milton
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography

There is more that I can say that could critique this play but what I truly appreciate is how much Davis wanted more feedback. All throughout the lobby was the QR code and a link to a feedback form. This form is one of the many commendable things for a playwright soliciting feedback is less a norm rather than the average practice. I highly encourage Alric Davis to continue writing and refine his craft and I look forward to the eventual world premieres of one his plays. Here is to the potential future of another great Houston playwright and become like household names such as Shawanna Renee Rivon and Brendan Borque-Sheil.

Review: Alric Davis' BASHFUL, AND THE NOIZE Creates an Emotional Journey at Sankofa Collective
Labraska Washington and Tadrian White as Dre and Bash dancing
Photo by Pin Lim's Forest Photography
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From This Author - Armando Urdiales

Armando Urdiales (He/Him/His)”: A second year MS in Theatre Studies at the University of Houston, I have been obsessed with theater since I was a kid. My mothers lullabies were from Andrew Ll... (read more about this author)


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