The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Rant

I have been afraid for my safety. — Investigator Mahnaz
You have. — Police officer Simmons You put my name on the Rant (a website blog). You said someone should kill me. Someone should rape me. Just for asking -- just for doing my job. — Mahnaz
So now you know what it's like.— Simmons

The Rang
MaConnia Chesser (Photo: SuzAnne Barabas)
The Rant by Andrew Case does what few exposition-driven dramas do successfully: keeps the audience riveted by a timely and incendiary situation, intrigued by provocatively nuanced dialogue and characters who resonate with the specificity of their reality. That it also builds towards a surprising, if also logical, denouement is also to this play's credit.

In it, four people — a citizen, a prosecutor, a policeman and a journalist — become entangled in a web of circumstantial and incomplete evidence in which the truth is suddenly relative, bias becomes a motivating force and guilt or innocence almost achieves irrelevance. As the play is primarily motored by the delivery of testimony and the delivering of information, it is incumbent upon the actors to make the dramatic sparks fly. Under the taut direction of Jesse Ontiveros they do.

Case, who spent seven years aside from his playwriting working as an investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York City, dives into the muddy waters of truth-telling and the questionable reliability of witnesses, the police, the press and the prosecutors.

An unarmed black autistic teenager is shot and killed by a policeman while on the front porch of his Brooklyn, New York home. His mother Denise Reeves (MaConnia Chesser) provides a detailed account of the incident to Lila Mahnaz (Rahaleh Nassri), a city prosecutor. Based on the facts as presented to her, Mahnaz sees the shooting as a means to validate her long-standing, deep-seated assumptions about the NYPD and what she perceives as its fellowship of cover-up. Her attempt to ally herself with a tabloid journalist Alexander Stern (Bob Senkewicz) becomes as confounding in its convolutions as is her frustrating attempt to get the young African-American policeman Charles Simmons (Mark Hairston) to admit that his actions may not have been justified.

Reeves's rage toward the policemen who patrol the neighborhood is pronounced and unwavering. But why has she left out some pertinent background information? And how relevant was that 911 call that she made minutes before the shooting? Mahnaz's disgust with the corruption in the Police department is barely contained. She's on a vendetta. What consequences will there be to her almost reckless and flawed pursuit for truth that has put her own life in danger? Stern's dissemination of the facts is predictably self-serving. Are ethics something he has no use for when it comes to blowing the prosecutor's cover? Simmons is adamant about his arguably defensive actions during the incident. Are his climactic revelations the shock that we expected?

The truth is as malleable and adaptable as are the inevitable and incontrovertible biases that surface from each of these characters, often expressed in long expository speeches. "Truth is a kind of bias," admits Mahnaz, who, when asked if she is an American responds, "I'm a Persian." Nassri gives a plausible account of a head-strong prosecutor whose own racial biases make her vulnerable to major errors in judgment. Chesser is excellent as the mother with a resolve for retribution. Senkewicz's stringent performance as the glib, callously cynical journalist is right on the money.

Hairston, who is making a formidable debut at the NJ Rep., inevitably makes Officer Simmons the most emotionally engaging as well as the play's most conflicted character: one who not only has a completely different version of the story told by Reeves. His commitment and loyalty to the police force is consistently being put to the test in a dangerous and predominantly African-American neighborhood. Jessica Parks's scenic design, that includes some projections of various locations in New York, consists of a few chairs and tables and flats posted with blow-up of news stories about the killing are simple and effective.

Under close scrutiny, perceptive audiences are likely going to uncover holes and discrepancies in the plot as well as in the way most professionals might more normally follow protocol and procedure. Not being bored for a moment, however, allows for the few lapses in credibility. Except for its lack of irony, some may also see in The Rant a similarity to the film Rashomon, in which various people offer differing accounts of a rape.

The National New Play Network World Premiere of The Rant was produced through the NNPN Continued Life Fund by New Theater (Miami, Fl.; InterAct (Phila. PA); and New Jersey Repertory Company (Long Branch, NJ).

The Rant
By Andrew Case
Directed by Jesse Ontiveros

Cast: MaConnia Chesser (Denise Reeves), Rahaleh Nassri (Lila Mahnaz), Bob Senkewicz (Alexander Stern), Mark Hairston (Charles Simmons)
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Technical Director: Quinn Stone
Sound Design: Michael Magnifico
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
The New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ
(732) 229 - 3166
Tickets ($40; seniors and students $35)
Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 2 PM.
Opened 08/22/09
Ends 09/20/09
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 08/22/09
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Rant
  • I disagree with the review of The Rant
  • The review made me eager to see The Rant
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
Try for great seats to
Jersey Boys
The Little Mermaid
Lion King
Shrek The Musical

South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from