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Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Constellation Theatre Company

Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Constellation Theatre Company

The production runs from September 29th through November 6th.

Constellation Theatre Company's production of Once on This Island is a beautiful, exciting, and heart wrenching story about class divide and major life choices. Led by the talented Kalen Robinson (Ti Moune), and the powerful cast of this show, we set off on a journey to learn about the impact the Gods of Earth, Water, Love, and Death have on Ti Moune who finds a wealthy boy in critical need of help.

As the show begins, we are welcomed by rising star, Ariana Caldwell (Young Ti Moune), who is the reason we learn the story of Ti Moune. Excited to be together with relatives and friends, a storm hits, and immediately a story is told to calm and inspire the young girl. Throughout the entire production, she sits and watches the story unfold before her eyes and even gets brought into it at times. This was an important detail that I think was executed very well, as we are reminded when a scene may be intense, that we are just listening to a story. Additionally, it provides for more creative flexibility as the characters are putting on a show and being played by those she is familiar with.

Each person in this cast has an important role in the story of the island. The Gods, played by Theodore Sapp (Agwe), Edima Essien (Asaka), Sydney Johnson (Erzulie), and Carl L. Williams (Papa Ge), shape this journey for Ti Moune. From the moment she was found on the island -being saved by the Gods- to the most important journey she would take -formulated and assisted by the Gods. We also saw the cast take on multiple characters in the story. From storytellers, to peasants, to the wealthy, the cast is rounded out by Deimoni Brewington (Tonton), Cayla Hall (Mama Euralie), Bianca Lipford (Andrea), Patrick Leonardo Casimir (Armand, Dance Captain), and Ti Moune's love, Emmanuel Elliot Key (Daniel).

In many shows, especially one like Once on This Island, seeing and feeling the connection amongst the cast is what really sells the story. And this cast certainly passed the test. There was a sense of care and support felt on stage - each movement and interaction feeling genuine and trusted. This is what solidified this company's excellence.

You can also tell this material was treated with heart and focus. One of my favorite aspects of the show was the dancing. This choreography was no typical musical theatre choreography. These dances were crafted from the roots of the show's origin. Choreographer and Assistant Choreographer, Maurice Johnson and Scean Aaron, took what they were given and gave everything in return. Influences of Caribbean and African dance are apparent and add an additional layer of appreciation for the material. Seeing the cast participate in this choreography was even more exciting. The atmosphere became alive each time these dances were performed with cast members cheering each other on, as well as audience members cheering all of them on. This was a very important element to the story that was perfectly implemented and executed and made for exciting and powerful storytelling.

Notable mention also goes to the production team who came up with many creative ways to present this performance in the best way possible. From the set design, to costuming, to props, to masks, the ideas that put this show together were impressively unique and imaginative. Who knew something as simple as a paper mask could provide such a clever outlet of storytelling?

Another element that was beyond impressive was the vocal talent. Each person on stage proved why they were there. Leading lady Robinson gave us a captivating and heartfelt performance of the popular song, "Waiting for Life," portraying the excitement and hopefulness Ti Moune felt as she waited and pleaded to the Gods for the thrilling part of her future. All four Gods also gave standout performances, each having their own solo song that contributed to pieces of Ti Moune's journey. The ranges and capabilities of acting, singing, and dancing from the entire cast made this show truly enjoyable.

Playing through November 6, 2022, Constellation Theatre Company's Once on This Island is a must-see. You will laugh, cry, and feel many emotions in between. I strongly recommend going to see this incredibly talented cast put on a show that goes beyond any regular theatre performance.

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Once on This Island performs through November 6th, 2022 at Constellation Theatre Company located at 1835 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009. For more information, click here.

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From This Author - Olivia Murray

Olivia is a small-town girl with a large passion for all things theatre. Currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Business and Entertainment at American University, her writing journ... (read more about this author)

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