BWW Reviews: CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC Lyrically Teaches Racism 101
If, for some inexplicable reason one didn't know, the world premiere of Citizen: An American Lyric will make it a point to educate you that racism exists. The multi-awarding winning book of poetry of the same name by Claudia Rankine, on which Stephen Sachs has adapted, will reinforce the many instances that black people deal with racism from their white counterparts. Rankine's poetic messages receive synchronized lyrical readings from the very talented cast of six, with many lines of the poem repeated or completed by the entire company of actors, as opposed to one performer always finishing a sentence. Anastasia Coon stages the actors' movements for the utmost pleasing aesthetic effects. Complemented by Yee Eun Nam's video projections of racial injustices listed and racism incidents in tennis and in soccer; Citizen, ably directed by Shirley Jo Finney, succeeds more as a poetic performance art piece than an actual scripted play.
Lisa Pescia most convincingly plays Citizen #5, a collection of the most unapologetically Caucasian female racists. Tony Maggio believably essays Citizen #6, a compilation of various white male racists; some intentional, some unaware of their racism. Tina Lifford and Simone Missick fiercely inhabit their respective angry female targets of racism, respectively Citizen #2 and Citizen #1. The male targets receive fleshed out portrayals of hurt, innocence and much intense anger by Bernard K. Addison (Citizen #4) and Leith Burke (Citizen #3).
Easy to understand why Sachs wanted to adapt Rankine's work with such verses as "Just getting a long shouldn't be an ambition." Or "This is not just a state of emergency, but also a state of emergence."