Dec

3

BTE’s “Fucking A”

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Many great works of theatre are not completely autonomous, and in fact, are responses to other works. In Suzan-Lori Parks “Fucking A”, a dystopian molding of The Scarlet Letter is presented to produce a complex and intriguing work of new drama. Bwog’s Gabby Beans reports from Lerner 5.

As the audience settled into their seats in the Lerner Black Box Theater on the opening night of the Black Theatre Ensemble’s production of Suzan-Lori Parks’s “Fucking A”,  electric curiosity surged through the atmosphere. Would the piece be a comedy? Would it be a tragedy? Would it be a musical? As the lights dimmed, the audience couldn’t help but wonder what exactly “Fucking A” would be. However, after having watched the play, there is still no cut and dry label one can apply to this innovative, but ultimately uneven production.

This stylistic ambiguity however, is not entirely due to the choices made by the director (Nailah Robinson, CC ’12), cast, and crew. “Fucking A” is set in a dystopian city-state where characters alternate between contemporary English and TALK, a jarring colloquial dialect comprised of a mixture of several languages. The play includes songs, but the music is employed in a less “musical theatre” sense and in a more Brechtian one, underscoring emotional tensions and causing the audience to reevaluate the scenes they’ve just witnessed. The play chronicles its protagonist, Hester Smith (Jasmine Sudarkasa, CC ‘13), in her attempts to free her son from jail via payments to the governmental “Freedom Fund”, and the ensuing hardships that befall her as she is swept into a maelstrom of political and personal tragedy.

Though this piece lends itself to emotional and thematic dynamism, there were certain moments where the quick tonal shifts left me more confused than exhilarated.  Often times, comedic scenes would be followed in quick succession by scenes of intense pathos and melodrama. Coupled with some technically underdeveloped performances, such  pacing dulled the sharpness of what was ultimately a compelling story.

Despite these criticisms, “Fucking A” showcased many admirable performances. Sakinah Smith, who played a plethora of supporting roles throughout the piece, stole every scene she was in with her impressive range and excellent comedic timing. Uzunma Udeh as Canary Mary, was another audience favorite with her deadpan delivery and sharp wit, and Shelby Sykes’s vocal performance as The First Lady was truly inspired. However it must be said that Jasmine Sudarkasa’s portrayal of Hester was one of the key organizing factors in what was an extremely fragmented play. At the end of the performance, when her character is faced with an unfathomably difficult choice, her grace and sincerity were equal parts heartbreaking and horrifying.

At the end of the day, “Fucking A” is a brave, sometimes successful attempt at an extremely demanding and affecting play; what it may lack in polish or cohesion, it all but makes up for in enthusiasm, humor and creativity.

“Fucking A” has two shows today at 2 pm and 8pm in Lerner Black Box. Tickets are $5 with CUID, $6 without.

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    Gabby Beans!

  2. Anonymous  

    Really well-written review, a nice change from recent ones.

  3. josh johnson  

    killed it! the play was phenomenal

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