Review: SUNSET BABY at Azuka Theatre

By: Nov. 12, 2019
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Review: SUNSET BABY at Azuka Theatre
Photo by Johanna Austin

As I walked in to recent Barrymore-winning Director Amina Robinson's newest project, I was excited to see what she would do next. But, Azuka Theatre's Sunset Baby was something Robinson and her projects are usually not: unremarkable.

The play is centered around Nina (Victoria Aaliyah Goins), the daughter of two former Black revolutionaries. After her mother dies, Nina is made the keeper of letters she wrote to her husband and Nina's father, Kenyatta (Steven Wright), while he was in prison. In a fight for the letters, Nina and Kenyatta open up about their past and how Kenyatta's absence as a father affected Nina's life growing up.

Each aspect of the play was well done. Dirk Durossette's scenic design felt lived-in and real. Nina's apartment featured objects pushed under the bed, crooked books on the shelf, and a blanket thrown over the sofa. A transparent curtain, lit by Lighting Designer Lily Fossner, takes a solid wall and reveals a sidewalk on the other side of it. Like the set, Ariel Wang's costumes are not showy, but true to life. Perhaps the best part of Sunset Baby was the soundtrack. Music by black artists from throughout the 20th century signaled scene changes and played in the background of Nina's day to day life.

Though the three-person cast is extremely accomplished, they did not bring the same seamless reality the rest of the team did. The characters did not seem to change much throughout the play's 90 minutes. In fact, most of the development took place at the tail end. I can't say this is Goins, Wright or Eric Carter (who plays Nina's boyfriend, Damon)'s fault. Rather, Sunset Baby itself is a play with a good idea that didn't reach its full potential.

I admire Robinson and the production team's attempt to bring more life to the play, but in order for Sunset Baby as a play to succeed, it needs to lay more bare the emotions of the characters at its center and explore Nina and her father's opposing worlds more thoroughly.

Azuka Theatre's Sunset Baby runs until Nov. 24 and ticket reservations can be made HERE.

This review is based on the preview performance on Nov. 7. Sunset Baby opened on Nov. 9.


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