Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Light


The program for Loy A. Webb’s drama at MCC Theater’s spiffy new home on W. 52nd Street specifies that the play is set on October 5, 2018. That is the day of the Senate’s cloture vote leading to the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh the following day. The action takes place in real time that evening at the upscale Hyde Park condo of Genesis (Mandi Masden; Our Lady of Kibeho, The Piano Lesson), an attractive woman approaching 40 who is principal of a prestigious charter school for black students. Genesis is frazzled because one her white teachers stirred up a hornet’s nest by posting a pro-Kavanaugh message online. Rashad (McKinley Belcher III; The Royale), a hunky fireman who, with his mother’s help, is raising a 4-year-old daughter abandoned by her mother, arrives bearing two gifts to celebrate the second anniversary of their first date. The first gift is exactly what Genesis wanted, but the second gift, coveted tickets to a concert by a rock star she disapproves of, sets her off. Genesis takes a long time to admit the reasons for her antipathy to the rock star. One of Genesis’s gifts for Rashad raises a new issue late in the play. What started as a celebration becomes an extended argument over who has it worse, black men or black women. It resembles a mashup of themes underlying the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements. Both Genesis and Rashad have incidents in their past that make it difficult to achieve mutual understanding. As the play turns didactic, the freshness and vitality take a hit, which is a shame because the beginning is so promising. The acting is very strong and the set by Kimie Nishikawa is sure to evoke real estate envy. Emilio Sosa’s (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess) costumes are appropriate. Director Logan Vaughn (Black Flag, Love Letters to a Dictator) occasionally lets the pace lag, The result is a flawed but interesting play. Running time: one hour 45 minutes; no intermission.

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