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BWW Review: DEAR MAPEL at Mosaic Theater Company

An autobiographical solo show written and performed by Psalmayene 24.

BWW Review: DEAR MAPEL at Mosaic Theater Company

Is it possible to change a relationship retrospectively, especially one that has been intermittent all along and ended with the death of the other person?

That is the question posed by Psalmayene 24, who didn't see his father until he was 12 and even then was introduced by the older man as someone else's son. Meetings between the two were scarce and sporadic after that, and, in fact, Psalmayene 24 found out about his father's death on three years after it happened.

In Dear Mapel, an autobiographical solo show written and performed by Psalmayene 24 and produced by Mosaic Theater Company, the 47-year-old explores the effect his father's absence had through specific events in his life.

Part of Mosaic's New Play Development, Dear Mapel is a world premiere, in which Psalmayene 24 is both playwright and performer. It is a hybrid of live performance and video, as the theater continues to be closed during the pandemic.

BWW Review: DEAR MAPEL at Mosaic Theater Company
Psalmayene 24

As a playwright Psalmayene 24 is articulate and perceptive; as a performer he is engaging and energetic. Earlier in 2020, Mosaic Theater appointed Psalmayene 24 to a three-year position as playwright in residence. He was able to write his one-man show after the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Emerson College's HowlRound Theatre Commons awarded him a grant.

To a small degree Dear Mapel is reminiscent of the A. R. Gurney play Love Letters, only the correspondence in this play goes in one direction. Some of the letters are real, but mostly they're fictional - and we don't necessarily know which is which. That doesn't really matter, since they all have an artistic reality.

The correspondence reflects loss, not only the absence of his father but some hurtful experiences of being a young black man in America. The blending of humor and pathos is effective, as a 16-year-old Psalmayene tries to and succeeds at losing his virginity (some people might find that episode a little explicit); his search for the perfect watermelon, intercepted by a white clerk; his white-Jewish girlfriend in eighth grade who is oblivious to the hostile looks they get; the first song he wrote for a girl in third grade who wanted to break up with him; and, in one of the more-joyous events of his life, meeting his wife. Not so joyous is being called the "N" word for the first time, which derails his efforts to be "white."

Psalmayene 24 so longs to be reconnected with his father that he goes to a medium, but we never find out exactly what happened.

In addition to his writing and performing in Dear Maple, there are clever graphic touches. One are the discarded pieces of paper, representing letters, that lying on the floor in the opening sequence, with apologies to the trees who died to produce them.

As announced at the beginning of the video, Dear Mapel is a work in progress, with Mosaic featuring only the first half at this time. Safety precautions allowing, the playwright will work on the other half in the spring and ultimately hopes to present a full production at Mosaic.

The percussion is provided by Jabari Exum.

Natsu Onoda Power directed.

Dear Mapel will be streamed through October 31, 2020. To obtain free tickets click here.

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