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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
Playwright/performer Beaty takes on forty different roles, each of them reacting in one way or another to the mysterious events happening at Liberty Island. He emerges as everything from a homeless man outside Central Park, to a HIV-positive young girl, to an African tribal chief on a slave ship, to a lawyer advocating reparations for slavery.
Central to the story is a black family consisting of two brothers, Rodney and Freddie, and their father, Reginald. When Reginald, a college professor, climbs onto the slave ship the central question of the play becomes why he did it, and how it will affect his sons —as well as everyone else onstage. Take these characters' stories and add the simultaneously happening poetry slam competition and you've got one high-energy, jam-packed performance.
Director Kenny Leon makes full use of set designer Beowulf Boritt's gorgeous and evocative set, a series of slanted planks reminiscent of a shipwreck. Leon's staging helps separate the characters and clarify the script's meaning, but it's Beaty's performance that carries the positive, appealing energy from one character to the next. His ability to mimic so many different characters is remarkable — with each character given individualized accents to facial tics. Even more impressive , is Beaty's deftness at both writing and performing slam poetry. He wraps his voice around these vibrant, intricate poems with charismatic full of life intensity.
Beaty isn't quite as adept at crafting the play itself. It's as if he's overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ideas and characters he puts on stage. A lot of the characters feel peripheral and d slow the momentum of the plot points. But Beaty's real problem is that many of his plot contrivances just don't make sense. Considering that his play has no aspirations to be realistic, the poetry slam café competition seems an unnecessary framework for the poetry slams. The situations created to prevent Rodney and Freddie from getting to their father also seem contrived. Had Beaty just trusted his unrealistic setup, Emergence-SEE! would probably be a lot more fluid and powerful.
While this piece is too scattershot and uneven to really take off as a play, as a series of poetry slams and astute impersonations, Emergence-SEE!> is unabashedly successful — funny, thoughtful, evocative and moving.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide