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BWW Review: INTERLUDE at New Conservatory Theatre Center

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BWW Review: INTERLUDE at New Conservatory Theatre Center

Interlude

Written by Harrison David Rivers

Directed by ShawnJ West

New Conservatory Theatre Center

Harrison David Rivers continues his characterization of Jesse Howard, first introduced four years ago in This Bitter Earth, who has now returned home to conservative Manhattan, Kansas, and his childhood home full of unresolved memories and a welcome chance at redemption and closure. With a powerful performance by Donald Ray Antoine, Interlude cleverly uses the trope of cleaning boxes of memories left in the basement as a metaphor for accepting the present and moving forward.

Forced back home during the Covid pandemic, Jesse ruminates on the problems of moving back to your childhood home as an adult and the difficulties of falling back into old patterns, patterns that for this creative, gay black man bring up old wounds and emotional shutdowns. Over the course of this 90-minute two-hander, Jesse, and his mother (the wonderful Jan Hunter) will heal their relationship and re-connect in new ways.

BWW Review: INTERLUDE at New Conservatory Theatre Center
Jesse (Donald Ray Antoine) and mother (Jan Hunter).

Discovering an old Sony Cassette player, Jesse records his thoughts in an attempt to "make order out of chaos" and have proper through lines, a characteristic of his playwright/teaching role. His mother reminds him of her favorite memories; his sports awards and the singing and dancing that came so natural to him. To her, he's always her baby, able to sit on here knee or be spanked over it.

Jesse tells stories of his first introduction to racism, not fully understanding the n-word and its negative connotations. This black awareness is carried forward with his connection to Black Lives Matter and his late activist lover Neil, who was senselessly murdered. Rivers continues the storyline of Jesse's meeting of the very forward and to the point Italian friend Luca.

BWW Review: INTERLUDE at New Conservatory Theatre Center
Mother (Jan Hunter) comforts Jesse (Donald Ray Antoine).

There's plenty of gay in Jesse, from his titillating introduction to gay white cinema, first crushes, and singing in the oldie in the shower (Irving Berlin's "I'll Be Loving You Always"). Antoine never gets to righteous or angry, projecting an even disposition, even when annoyed by his mother's constant interruptions.

Interlude continues the conversations or illuminations of This Bitter Earth and it's a gay black man's point of view that is not always seen in theatre. White audiences can relate to the gay aspects of moving past old wounds, while being exposed to the added weight of color.

Interlude runs through November 7, 2021. Tickets available at (415) 861-8972 or at www.nctcsf.org.

Photo Credit: Lois Tema


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