Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Through the Night @ Westside Theatre (Downstairs)

Renowned award winning actor, singer, writer and composer, Daniel Beaty, has done it again in this hilarious and moving one man show. Through the Night, now playing at the Westside Theatre on Monday evenings, is a laugh out loud and heartfelt approach to the story of five African American men whose lives are all intertwined as they fight their way through their struggles in the projects.

A young boy, named Eric, tries desperately to mix herbal teas with healing properties to save those around him; while his father, Mr. Rogers, tries to save those around him from poor nutrition, like the Bishop, who is trying to save himself and overcome his addition to his favorite snack treat, Ho Hos. The Bishop is father to a man named Isaac, who is fighting himself about whether or not he should accept his homosexuality, crushing his father, or be true to who he is. Isaac is mentor to recent graduate, ‘Twon, who is also fighting to get out of the projects and be a better man than his nonexistent father was, where as Dre, a recently clean addict is trying to be responsible and take care of the woman who is soon to birth his child… his child who just might be HIV positive.

Lost yet? To non typical theatre go-er it might be a little over whelming trying to keep all five of these characters straight within one man’s body, but Beaty does a profound job of personifying each of the characters down to a “T” without a single costume change. From the Bishops’ waddle, to Eric’s nine year old, innocent demeanor, each character comes to life with such precision. Although this reviewer would have liked Mr. Beaty to have gone just that extra step in making them all a little bit larger, yet director Charles Randolph-Wright has the right notion of having his actor hold back just that much as not to make the characters seem farcical and over the top, especially in such a small performance space, made the characters quietly honest and not mocking representations.

With only three boxes and a textured backdrop, Beaty keeps the audience engaged not only with his personification of touching characters, but with his words. What at first seems more like a play about five men whose lives just happen to be intertwined, become so much more, as the words of plot and exposition melt away and become a lyrical masterpiece. Such segments as “Run, black man, Run,” and “Dance, momma, Dance,” become chilling glimpses into the very souls of these men.

Throughout these dramatic moments, poiant music can be heard, thanks to the help of Lindsay Jones, who wrote an original score for this production. Without overpowering the music, that was the lyrics themselves, Jones leaves hints and swells of hope and integrity not just a mere back track. Even the sound effects, though minimal as they are, help to quietly fill out the grey areas that Beaty cannot paint on his pallet alone, with the tinkling of a spoon in a glass to the beeping monitor and murmur of a hospital waiting room. There were, however, a few transitional tracks that broke the spell, trying to establish the urban grunge of the inner city, but it only subtracted from what had been created.

Lighting, although nicely done, seemed to be a little rough around the edges. Transitional lighting fell short, as Beaty was constantly out of his light, however there was a clear establishment of setting of characters and mood with the changes in color, if under realized at times.

Although this might spoil the ending for some, it is left at a cliffhanger with the story of Eric is concerned. The question on everyone’s lips is, “Will this young boy live or die.” If this reviewer walked away with any message it is this: only the actions of each audience member beyond the end will set his sentence. Not sure what that means? Well you’re just going to have to brave through the night to see it.

Review By: Ryan Oliveti & Sarah Hogan-DePaul


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