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The Public Theater

Eve's Song
2.0Reviewer's Rating

We know something’s up off the bat: no one can relax among the meticulous cleanliness and set-up of this plain and normal home, especially after the mother clicks off the TV in the middle of a report of another murder of an unarmed Black man. It’s clear that this blatant military precision of a family at dinnertime will inevitably crumble; it’s only a matter of how. Patricia Ione Lloyd’s new comedy (or drama?) is unapologetic in its content, and blunt in its execution, and as a result, falls short of landing with sharp and distinct implication.

As her world continues down the dangerous path she’s been witness to all her life, Deborah (De’Adre Aziza) is determined to keep her children, Lauren (Kadijah Raquel) and Mark (Karl Green) from suffering the same fate. They do everything right, but must still exist while Black in America. The newly-out Lauren uncovers an inner power when she begins a relationship with Upendo (Ashley D. Kelley), and Deborah can’t cope. Lloyd paints these figures in broad strokes, making clear through honest asides and vignettes that they are painfully aware of what they and their country are going through, as much as they try to hide in the façade of a beautiful home. This sometimes causes the play to be performed as an opera: with soaring ambition, along with overwrought melodrama. Perhaps this disconnect has to do with Lloyd labeling her own play as a comedy, since it never feels like one.

The contributions of all creative voices in this production, under the direction of Jo Bonney, seem to erase nuance, and leave very little for an audience to interpret and reflect on. In the midst of the intent to hit with a strong message, there’s a feeling the play is given to us, rather than expressed for us. The house, for example, develops a huge crack in its main wall, and one of the floorboards breaks. It’s obvious symbolism; entirely too effortful. The tragic poetry of the “spirit women” (all black women whose lives were cut short by brutal, irrational circumstance) haunt some of the play’s transitions, in what are easily the most powerful monologues of the piece. Lloyd shows that she has the makings of a provocative and spell-binding poet, but these moments are made a bit uneventful by the lack of subtext in the play’s real-time dialogue.

The playwright points out in her preface to the script that we never hear the word “white.” Although the audience knows who’s in charge of the institutions that cause pain to our characters, this space is purely for the Black voices to take center stage, making the story more about how these people deal with the pain, rather than the source of it. Although the lead-up often struggles to compel, the pay-off is moving. The fates the characters suffer (particularly that of Deborah) are prone to torment: after all, we’ve seen it happen, and we’ve heard of it happening.

  • Comedy
  • By Patricia Ione Lloyd
  • Directed by Jo Bonney
  • Cast includes: De’Adre Aziza, Karl Green, Ashley D. Kelley, Vernice Miller, Kadijah Raquel, Rachel Watson-Jih, Tamara M. Williams
  • The Public Theater
  • Until 9 December 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (USA)

Ben Odom is a NYC-based actor and singer. He trained at Syracuse University, and currently studies improv and sketch comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade, and scene study at The Barrow Group.

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