Familiar

(l to r) Cedric Young, Celeste M. Cooper, Ora Jones, Lanise Antoine Shelley, and Jacqueline Williams in ‘Familiar.’ (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Danai Gurira has built a Hollywood brand playing characters known for their physical and mental strength. In television shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, and blockbuster films like 2018’s Black Panther, Ms. Gurira commands attention with portraits of women who can love and be loved, while also kicking ass and making important decisions. Ms. Gurira has become an icon for the #MeToo era as women work to create safer, more powerful and public spaces for themselves, as well as a global HIV advocate. Who among us hasn’t fantasized about going full General Okoye on a street harasser?

Yet I confess that until recently, I was unaware of Ms. Gurira’s accomplishments as a prolific and celebrated playwright. Is there nothing this woman can’t do? I’m an excited fangirl all over again after attending the opening of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s newest production, a mounting of Ms. Gurira’s 2015 play, Familiar. With humor, sharp dialogue, physical comedy and, not incongruently, large helpings of emotional heft, the work engages questions of identity, family dynamics, and the immigrant experience.

All productions as successful as this one start with great source material. Familiar drops in on the Chinyaramwira family, Zimbabwe-Americans living in Minnesota. In climate and culture, the Midwestern locale couldn’t be more different from life in the African nation, and Ms. Gurira looks at a wide scope of contrasts with remarkable balance. For every obvious benefit of material wealth and comfort, the play argues, there’s a tradeoff. These various concessions are explored through the play’s philosophically diverse characters, and they are brought together through an enduring trope of emotional volatility: the family wedding.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

Advertisements

Mary Stuart

“The storytelling parallels, the dramatic tension involved in understanding “right” while secretly lusting after “wrong,” are what brought my thoughts to Black Panther as I exited the theatre after last week’s premiere. Unfortunately, the corollary does not pull through to the pacing and denouement of the respective works. At two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission, Mary Stuart is unreasonably long considering stretches of tedious dialogue that fail to move the action forward. I’ve no objection to sitting for almost three hours when fully engaged, but Thompson would have been wise to exhibit more editorial leadership.

And since audiences, ultimately, endure no real suspense about the ending, as Mary entertains with her colorful flaws, the final scene feels incredibly ham-fisted, if technically impressive. I don’t believe in spoilers, so will say no more. However Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Mary Stuart, like its namesake, is an imperfect experience.”

Read the full post on The Broadway Blog.