BWW Review: BEHOLD THE DREAMERS from Book-It Left Me Wanting
Finish strong and they'll forgive a multitude of sins. This old adage of the theater rings truer than ever in this TV-binging, short attention span world in which we live. Unfortunately, the folks at Book-It Repertory Theatre didn't Take That into account with their current production of "Behold the Dreamers" which started off slow, then picked up and really engaged in the middle and then ended with a whimper.
Adapted from the novel by Imbolo Mbue, we meet Jende and Neni (Sylvester Foday Kamara and Anjelica McMillan), two immigrants from Cameroon trying to make a life for themselves and their family in New York. While waiting to secure his green card, Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy financier Clark (David Quicksall) and his family. When the recession hits and the bottom drops out of the finance market, Jende is afraid for his livelihood but is assured his job is safe due to his hard work and discretion regarding Clark's activities. But when Clark's wife Cindy (Beth DeVries) gets suspicious of Clark, she tries to enlist Jende's help in finding out the truth, putting Jende in a precarious position. Meanwhile Neni, who's studying to become a Pharmacist, runs into her own issues with the family when she discovers Cindy's dangerous drug habit while working over the summer for the family as a maid.
As I said, the show takes a bit too long to get going. There are lots of scenes that are simply "Jende drove them and then came home." We do very clearly get a picture of the dichotomy between this affluent family who ride around on their privilege vs. this poor immigrant family trying to survive on their pride and integrity. But that picture is painted a bit too long and we don't encounter real conflict until Act Two. Once in it, adapter and director Myra Platt keeps the action clipping along but then when it all gets too hard, the story just kind of ends with very little resolution.
The cast tackles the characters admirably and give an honest and raw portrayal. Kamara and McMillan show some great chemistry even when their relationship becomes one sided and violent. And Quicksall and DeVries dive head first into this rich, white couple whose relationship and behavior have degraded severely over time.
The problem with the show isn't from the cast, it's that story that just fizzles out which left me watching the show wondering at the start when it would get going and ending with the feeling of "that was it?" And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Book-It Repertory Theatre's production of "Behold the Dreamers" with a yearning for more MEH. I appreciate the characters and the issues at hand, but this story suffers from an anti-climax that saps the power from the story.
"Behold the Dreamers" from Book-It Repertory Theatre performs at the Center Theatre through June 30th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It Repertory Theatre box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.