BWW Review: SHE SAID / HE SAID at the Black Theatre Workshop
SHE SAID / HE SAID is a new play by award-winning, Toronto-based playwright Anne-Marie Woods. The piece, which runs an hour-and-a-half without intermission, focuses on the romantic relationship between two people each equipped with their own emotional baggage.
Produced by the Black Theatre Workshop, the play provides a modern look not only at relationships and urban dating culture, but at black identity and representation in Canada.
As the main characters, He and She, try to navigate the minefield of contemporary dating, they are unable to separate their own anxieties about race and intimacy from their romantic aspirations. Mariah Inger, who plays She, is captivating to watch and brings forth a wealth of emotion and vulnerability throughout the show. In comparison, Christian Paul as the leading man opposite tends to fade into the background, unable to sustain the audience's attention to the same degree.
On top of a strong script, which often uses jumps in time and character asides to progress the action along, the play benefits tremendously from its use of spoken word. Woods deserves credit for the composition and elegance with which she seamlessly integrates these moments into the regular dialogue and fabric of the show. The instances of lyrical monologue provide a refreshing change of pace from its overall reliance on stationary dialogue.
The play falters where it tries to further diversify its format using original music and song. The songwriting feels amateur and unpolished, relying on overly simplistic and clichéd rhyme schemes. Despite their best efforts, the actors appeared to be noticeably uncomfortable and almost reluctant onstage during these musical interludes. While this may be a case of press preview jitters, the songs ultimately proved distracting to the whole arc of the show as the thread of the narrative would be repeatedly interrupted.
The styling of the show, presented at the Montreal Arts Interculturels Centre, was interesting and thoughtful, using mirrored panels to redirect light in the intimate semi-round space.
On the whole, the play is humorous and engaging, with Inger 's acting performance topping the list of reasons to go and see it. Woods' script poses relevant and honest questions about the experience of black men and women in the modern dating landscape without providing any easy answers or fairytale endings.