BWW Reviews: THE LIQUID PLAIN Drowns in its Own Incoherency
With a title taken from a verse by Phillis Wheatley, Naomi Wallace's drama of two women escaping slavery, The Liquid Plain, is thick with poetic language and symbolism but exceedingly thin on clear story-telling. Despite a handsome and well-acted production helmed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, the evening trudges along before drowning in its own incoherency.
Which is a shame because the situation, based on fact, is an interesting one. Lovers Adjua (Kristolyn Lloyd) and Dembi (Ito Aghayere) hide dockside in Rhode Island. (Riccardo Hernandez's imposing and gloomy set is impressive.) It's 1791 and they're keeping themselves alive by selling items they find on the bodies of drowned sailors while seeking a boat that will take them back to Africa.
The audience is shown right from the start that that Dembi is a woman disguised as a man and we can eventually gather that the cryptic appearance of a woman at the beginning of each act represents Adjua's sister, who was murdered by being tied to a chair and tossed in the water.
The women fish out the body of Cranston (Michael Izquierdo), who apparently isn't as dead as he seems. In his pocket is a copy of William Blake's poem, The Chimney Sweeper, about young boys sold into labor, and in his leg is a parasitic worm.
The second act, 46 years later, has Adjua and Dembi's daughter, Bristol (LisaGay Hamilton) seeing out the truth behind her aunt's death, unaware that she's about to learn something about her own bloodline.
Bristol also has an encounter with William Blake (Karl Miller), seen suspended in a metal cage, his body parts falling off as he decomposes. The fictitious scene stands out for its dark, sardonic comedy and is one of the few times when The Liquid Plain shows signs of life.