BWW Review: THE NICETIES at Urbanite Theatre
The Urbanite is staging another fascinating production you should see, running through June 30, 2019. Tightly written by Eleanor Burgess, The Niceties, is a politically charged, relevant subject that is so compelling, not to mention the powerhouse performances of its two-member cast.
We go back to 2016, the beginning of Obama's presidency. The story takes place in the well-appointed campus office of professor Janine Bosko (Kate Young), a powerful and distinguished white, female scholar, in the study of history and revolutions. Her appearance is neat and her office is tidy. She feels she is progressive and stands her ground on all issues. Her student, Zoe Reed (Bonita Jackson), a black female undergraduate political science major is working on her thesis and comes for advice. Zoe would rather be at a protest but she needs good grades for the future that will be quickly coming her way.
Zoe put a lot of hard work into her paper. She is passionate about expressing American history through the eyes of black families. She has had enough of racism and wants to be the change she would like to see in the world. Janine abounds in critical thinking and looks for words, sentences and punctuation that need to be corrected by her expertise. As Janine reviews Zoe's paper, what begins as advice becomes a small squabble. The squabble elevates into an argument and the argument catapults into a physical clash of brute force and harsh words that further drive a political wedge between their staunch mindset of differences. Both women consider themselves on the correct side of history - one for the way it was written and the other for the way it was not.
This drama digs deep into politics and history, and intensely represents both parties, the epitome of power and privilege, and the suppressed that have the guts to stand up for change. There are times during their discussions that they almost start to agree on something but it slips away. At one point they even agree on each other's point of view - for just a moment. It's a proverbial tennis match watching the linguistic fastball of viewpoints going back and forth between characters. You may find yourself cheering for Zoe one minute and Janine the next. But isn't that life in general these days? Janine is right - history is history. But Zoe has a well defined point - history through whose eyes? Imagine history books written from the perspective of the oppressed and the underserved. Would that change history or broaden it?
This very potent debate explodes through demanding acting scenes and long discourses between the actors. Director Natalie Novacek gave her actors a wide berth to sink their teeth into their roles. She kept the pace flowing through gentle bantering and kicked it up a notch for some all out physical intensity. It takes a lot of stamina to inhabit these characters. Kate Young as Janine is sharp and calculated. She is believable and delivers her lines in a way that ignites Janine. Bonita Jackson brings a passion and boldness to Zoe, who equally delivers her discourse with flair. Both women are intensely vivid in their approach to their parts and will give you a visual takeaway of something to think about.
For more information on Urbanite Theatre and their upcoming line up of productions, visit www.urbanitetheatre.com.